ARC Review: Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

I received an ARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my review.

Release Date: October 11, 2016

My Rating: ★★★★☆ [really more like 3.5 but I round up]

Genre(s): Young Adult; Magical Realism

Plot: [Copied from Goodreads] Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she explores the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she’s finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can’t quite recall. After decades of staying together “for the kids” and building a family on a foundation of lies and violence, Sarah’s parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage. As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original —and yet it still hurts.


  • I’ve never read a magical realism book, so it was definitely interesting
  • Sarah tells the truth slowly; she even says that somewhere in the middle of the book. I liked watching it unfold bit by bit.
  • There was a definite bigger picture here, and it really fit with the tornado metaphor.
  • Sarah’s mom’s chapters added another dimension to the story and really showed that it wasn’t just about Sarah.
  • “Umbrella”
  • Alleged Earl
  • All the Sarahs


  • While it was really great and emotional, I don’t think I really got it.
  • Sarah’s dad is a douche.
  • Sarah’s art project. Like wtf. Douches.


  • There were so many and I already returned my copy and I can’t remember them! I’ll try to remember to add them to this review later!

My Thoughts: Okay. So I didn’t even know that magical realism is a thing until I read this book. I think I went into it too literally and that’s why I had a hard time taking all of the Sarah’s seriously. That confusion aside, I thought it was pretty good. I enjoyed how the story unfolded, past and present peppered with Sarah’s mother’s chapters, and once I saw the bigger picture I was like ooooh. The fact that it started out as Sarah not being able to “do the art”, and ended as this huge web of stories that suddenly made a lot of sense, was pretty cool. I definitely wasn’t expecting it. I may have to read it again someday to really understand it because this review sucks and I have a lot more to say but I’m not really sure how to say it without spoiling the book. This book was bizarre in a really good way and I think if you can look past that, you could really get into it.

A.S. King

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