Still Life with Tornado

Welcome back, my lovely people!

I think I have a good one for you this week. It’s a little different from my usual novels, but it’s still worth the read. Read on if you want to know why I think you should read Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King.

still life


Sarah: Sarah is a 16-year-old (she’s also ten, twenty-three, and forty), and she’s in the middle of an existential crisis. Her friends from school aren’t talking to her anymore, her parents’ marriage is strained, and every day, she’s learning more about herself and remembering her past.

Bruce: Sarah’s brother, who is nineteen and hasn’t contacted his family in six years.

Alleged Earl: A homeless man whom Sarah has been following around in the hopes she can learn something about art. Earl never asks for anything, but people give him art supplies with which he decorates Philadelphia.

Mom: An overnight ER nurse who has seen some stuff. As tired as she is, she tries her best to give Sarah a good life.

Dad: Sarah’s dad is an insurance agent who is lazy and feels as though his wife should do all the heavy lifting at home. We learn about his past and the kind of man he really is.

Mrs. Smith: Sarah’s art teacher who kind of causes Sarah’s existential crisis. She doesn’t really do much in the way of teaching.

Carmen: We only meet Sarah’s best friend once, but we hear about her throughout the book. She talented, kind, and generally well-liked.


Sixteen-year-old Sarah stops going to school after her art teacher tells the class that there are no original ideas. Sarah suddenly finds it impossible to draw a pear, tells Mrs. Smith she had lost the will to participate, and promptly stops going to school.

During her adventures around Philadelphia, she meets herself from three different ages: ten-year-old Sarah, twenty-three-year-old Sarah, and forty-year-old Sarah.

Ten-year-old Sarah asks sixteen-year-old Sarah if she remembers Mexico (she vaguely remembers Mexico), which was the vacation right before Bruce moved away. According to ten-year-old Sarah, sixteen-year-old Sarah needs to remember Mexico in order to get over her existential crisis.

Sarah spends her days bus hopping and following Alleged Earl, a homeless artist, who just so happens to be an original idea. She thinks that watching Alleges Earl may help her be able to draw that pesky pear and make art again.

As tensions rise at home because of Sarah’s repeated absences from school, her parents fight more and push each other away. Sarah starts to realize little things that mean her home life may not be as normal as she thought they were.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book, because it’s not often I read a book like this. There isn’t much dialogue, but it works because most of the novel is from Sarah’s point of view and in her head. We learn about Sarh’s present, her trip to Mexico with her family, and some things from Sarah’s mom.

I can relate to Sarah trying to find herself. She tries to learn about herself and to reinvent herself, and, frankly, to become someone else.

One disappointment, though- multiple times, Sarah talks about how she has no interest in dating anyone ever (asexual representation, anyone?). Unfortunately, no. We learn that she has a boyfriend at twenty-three. Boo.

Other than that, the characters are varied and multi-faceted, and the whole novel made me wonder what was real and what was important.

All in all, I give Still Life with Tornado a 4 out of 5.

Thank you for tuning in to this week’s novel review. Take a look at my last review for the Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, and at my bookshelf to see what books I’ve decided to keep. Watch out for next week’s review.

I’ll see you then!

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