Formerly 'The Mile Long Bookshelf'

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner

Title: Can't Look Away
Author: Donna Cooner
Published by: Electric Monkey
Publication date: 8th January 2015
Pages: 296
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Grief/Family
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

I click over to my YouTube page and scroll down to the comments. There are so many that say 'Sorry' and 'Thinking of you', but then there are the others.

'Get a life.'

'All you care about is yourself.'

'Stop using your sister's death for your own fame.'

'It was your fault.'

I close my eyes. I always wanted to be famous, but not like this.

Every week, thousands of people watch Torrey's beauty vlog for tips on how to be popular and pretty. But when her sister is killed in an accident, this perfect world implodes.

How can Torrey mourn her sister in private, when her bubbly public persona is all over the web? Then she meets Luis, who challenges all she thought she knew about love, life and loss.

I knew, as soon as I took this out of the envelope, that I would love this book. The instinct was so strong that I skipped my triple English lesson and read this instead. I know I shouldn't have done that but it turned out to be a good choice because this book absolutely blew me away. Wow, wow, wow.

Torrey is a beauty vlogger. She posts all the usual hauls and tutorials and, soon enough, she's pretty well-known. But her sister dies while helping her to shoot a video, and suddenly everyone has an opinion on it. In an attempt at creating a fresh start, the family moves to Texas, where Torrey begins to come to terms with what happened.

At the beginning, Torrey is shallow and materialistic. If she's not talking about herself or popularity, she's talking about the price tags on her clothes, and knowing what other people think of her 24/7 is incredibly important. As you can probably tell, she wasn't hugely likable at times, but who is likable all of the time, anyway? It just made her more real, and it also meant there was lots of space for her to grow and improve as a person, which she did.

That leads me on to the secondary characters, Luis and Raylene. Luis and his amazing family were such great additions to the book. I loved reading about his family's culture and día de los muertos, and Luis trying to help Torrey through the aftermath of her sister's death was heartwarming and, at the same time, heartbreaking.

Raylene, Torrey's social outcast of a cousin, was adorable. Torrey wasn't always nice to her, but I like to think she secretly appreciated her, and that Raylene had a good influence.

As someone who blogs and makes YouTube videos, books focusing on these things always pique my interest, but they also make me nervous because I worry they'll get it wrong. I needn't have worried - Can't Look Away gets it 100%, and I love how frequent this is becoming in YA books. It also raises the issue of drink driving but in a delicate way, so it's not in your face but it's still sending out a good message, and I'm hoping this starts popping up more in YA, too.

As well as Can't Look Away, I can also recommend Skinny, Cooner's debut novel published a couple of years ago, which is equally brilliant. Overall, I couldn't look away from this book. You were hoping I wouldn't make that joke, weren't you? Sorry. It's true though, I really couldn't tear my eyes away - I was fully engrossed. Fast paced and filled with emotion while tackling many different modern issues all in one go, this is such a fun read and definitely one to look out for.


  1. Your review and that pretty cover are peeking my interest. This sounds like a great book and will definitely get it.

    Great review :)
    Aparajita @Le' Grande Codex

  2. Ooh - I LOVE that cover! It's so pretty! I'll definitely be picking this up. I also love books that incorporates Youtube/blogging/social media as pretty much all of us use it so it makes the book quite relatable. Fantastic review, Amber! :)

  3. Amber, I gotta say.... I've gone through so many book blogs and yours is literally my favourite... *hugs*
    Thank you for being such an incredible and inspiring person


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