“The words I’ve heard in the past few days are ones I never expected – new, untried, untested. Casket. Body. Funeral. Viewing. Embalming. Autopsy. Severed. Seven-inch non-corrosive steel blade. Homicide.”
MIRA | 2018
Opening Hook: Broken bones, broken dreams
Main Character: Shouldn’t keep blood secrets when your sister works with DNA
Plot Twisty-ness: Are coincidences considered twists?
Okay, okay, OKAY. Y’all know I love me some J.T. Ellison.
It all started with her Taylor Jackson series a damn decade ago (ugh, that makes me feel old) and I’ve been a loyal reader ever since. I love tough women writing tough women, it’s a thing.
Ellison’s move from series writer to standalones started with Lie to Me, which most people loved, except for yours truly.
What can I say? I’m a picky fucking reader.
I had a few issues with the pacing of Lie to Me (the second half sucked the life out of it) and with the ending (“it was all for nothing, just a giant misunderstanding” doesn’t really work for me. that’s not a twist,) but I’m happy to say that I liked Tear Me Apart a lot. I didn’t love it. It’s not the best thing I’ve read this year, but it’s a good read. It’s not a waste of your time, at all.
And we all know how much I hate wasting my reading time.
Personally, I’m going to blame Riley Sager for the bar he’s set with me when it comes to thriller writing. If you’re not giving me Sager-style twists at this point, five stars are going to be out of reach.
But truthfully, I save my five-star ratings for books I want to turn into liquid form and inject directly into my veins on an IV drip.
So, with perspective, 4 stars is a really good rating for me.
In Tear Me Apart, there are a lot of moving parts and some of it requires a gleeful suspension of disbelief that doesn’t come exactly easily to me, because even in the world of make-believe, I’m still looking for the basics to make a kind of logical sense. I want things to be thought through. Even if we’re talking about dragons and wizards.
Here, you have a prodigy Team USA skier who just happens to break a leg which just happens to lead to the discovery some terrible form of cancer, which just happens to reveal some biological parentage questions, which just happens to reveal a murderous family secret, and you’re little sister just happens to be a DNA expert…
It was a little bit too much in terms of the domino effect and convenience of revelation. I suppose I like my plot lines to have a bit more intention, and a little less coincidence. But, if you can let that part go, then you’re in a for a ride.
There are a lot of heavy themes that are dealt with through the course of the story – cancer, relationships, child abduction, the aftermath of tragedy, depression and suicide and a mother’s love.
Ellison tackles all of these themes head-on. She never shies away from trying to put the most human and honest lens onto the situation and the characters, even if that means revealing flaws that don’t have a good excuse.
Yes, I ate all the Halloween candy already. I don’t know what you want me to say!? I can’t control myself! Don’t let me buy Halloween candy so early. Christ!
This dedication to honesty and character development makes this a more lengthy read, but well worth it for the emotional experience, and the connection you develop to the characters, even the more sinister ones. There’s also some flashback, psych ward scenes that lend to backstory and mental health history which were maybe some of my favourite scenes.
Because you know, if there’s anything I love more than eating all the Halloween candy three weeks before Halloween, it’s a psych ward setting.
This novel is like an onion, each layer revealing new lies that have been festering and covered up, more secrets about the character’s pasts and motivations – mostly everything said and done in an effort to protect the child at the centre of it all, Mindy Wright. The golden child. The skiing prodigy.
It would have been really easy to write Mindy as being super annoying, too good and too perfect and too talented, but Ellison managed to create a humble and genuine sun for the rest of the characters to rotate around. Even in her excellence. Even in her darkest moments.
It does raise the question of how Mindy could possibly have been raised to be that ideal of a child, considering…
I was also left hanging a little bit on the storyline of Dr. Castillo. She clearly had nothing to do with the events 18 years ago, so how did anyone even know to mention her, to weave that story, to tell that lie? That any of her crimes lined-up in terms of dates and locations… oh it’s just a bigggggg coincidence? Just the perfect excuse plopping into someone’s lap? Please.
But that’s just one issue I had with an otherwise deeply developed novel that can hold your interest for a full 500 pages with rich characters and dramatic layers. The pacing is slower than that of Lie to Me, but the investment you develop in the story, into the lives of the Wrights, is a call back to Lie to Me, where the reader was hooked on the outcome, connected to the characters and their fates.
This is a thriller, but it’s also a family saga, one that plays up the sinister tones of the lengths a mother will go to protect her child, to have a child, to make sure a child is safe when you don’t feel you can be the one to provide that safety.
Though it relies a bit too heavily on coincidence and is slightly predictable, with a few loose ends, Tear Me Apart is a book deserving of your time.
The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apart is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.
One moment will change their lives forever…
Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.
Who knows the answers?
The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart…and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.
With vivid movement through time, Tear Me Apart examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.