Written: Shannon Mawhiney
Obtained via: Author
Torberta Turchin, or Torby for short, is a 14-year-old girl who has spoken to the dead ever since she can remember. After her parents’ death in a tragic car accident when she was very young, her relatives sent her to St. Christopher’s boarding school for the mentally ill, where she lives a relatively normal and happy life. Short of some demanding and needy ghosts, Torby has never been much bothered by the voices, especially because her best friend, a musician named Charlie who died in the 1930s, is among them.
When she becomes the target of strange events at the school though, she needs Charlie’s help, and the help of a new boy who not only can hear Charlie… he can see him. Together they must figure out who is behind the attacks, before it’s too late, for Torby and for her classmates.
Will she survive to another year? …or will she join Charlie on the plane of the dead?
The Death of Torberta Turchin is a surprisingly well-written and engrossing YA novel. The kids at St. Christopher’s have so many problems that it’s easy to sympathize and feel sorry for them. The mystery is intriguing, even if it is easy to puzzle out.
The ending, though, seemed a bit sudden and had a tacked-on-with-glue feeling. You know by the title how the story will end, but the author’s vision of the afterlife seems not nearly so fleshed out as that of the living world. There is an obvious allusion to a sequel, however, so the author should have ample opportunity to expand that later – though that’s not an excuse for leaving even the bit we do see here lackluster.
I admit to being a bit put off by what seems to be the “moral” of this story. Torby’s fate seems to say, “All my problems were solved by dying!” My guess is that this isn’t what the author meant to say. At least, I hope it isn’t. That would be a very poor lesson to give teenagers who have enough pressures in the current day.
My biggest concern is that, if the author isn’t trying to tell teenagers that death is preferable to living with a mental or emotional problem, then she failed to get her real message across. This is bad. Still, a book can be just a book and not a life lesson, so I wouldn’t recommend readers avoid this story on that alone.
The book touches on serious things that are real life problems: schizophrenia, pyromania, trichotillomania, and bulimia are a few. Though it doesn’t truly address any of these things, they are depicted as treatable conditions that one can adjust to and live with – encouraging if you’re a teen who is dealing with one of them.
If you’re a YA paranormal fan, I’d recommend it. Though, as should always be a given, I recommend adults who are unsure of the themes to read it before, or along with, their kids.
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