Summary: Alone in Ireland after the violent deaths of his whole family, Declan joins the Holy Rollers, a militant terrorist group made up of teenage boys bent on getting revenge against the Protestants and the English. The idea of making people pay is all-consuming, and when his Uncle Matthew sends for him from Canada, Declan does absolutely everything he can to stop himself from being taken out of his country. Once in Canada, living in British Columbia, he’s still determined to make his escape, until his Uncle Matthew and Aunt Kate make a deal with him to stick it out for three months with the offer of sending him back to Ireland at the end if he still wants to go.
Number of Page: 256
Age Range: 13-15
Review: With gripping action and a main character who is always strategising to achieve his endgame, getting revenge on the British and Protestants for the deaths of his mother, father and younger sister, Torn Away by James Heneghan is the story about Declan, a young teen overcome by a need for vengeance.
And, living in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s, he has plenty of opportunity. Caught in an ongoing and violent feud between Catholics and Protestants, Irish and British, Declan has learned how to hate and how to hurt. It’s no surprise he does not want to go to Canada to live with his uncle, or that he fights every step of the journey it takes to get there.
When it came to Declan facing his bully at school, I felt sorry for the bully. Pair a kid whose parents have died, who knows how to kill small animals by making an apple into a weapon and who can build bombs against a kid who knows how to hurt people with his words and it’s kind of like bringing a knife to a gun fight. I thought Declan giving the guy a ‘Belfast Kiss’ was letting the bully off extremely easy considering the amount of anger Declan had in him and his extensive knowledge of how to harm people.
I like Heneghan’s message. Like Susan White’s “Ten Thousand Truths,” he shows his reader that love and the land have the power to heal. Declan describes his uncle’s family as fixers and they are. They’ve taken in an orphan, a widow whose house burned down and a child who was abandoned as a baby because he had Down Syndrome. They rescue a seal pup and nurse it back to health. And though Declan resists at every turn, their care for him finds its way into his heart, providing him with a choice between hatred in Ireland and love in Canada.
The physical space is also a factor. They live close to an ocean, and the landscape itself works its magic on Declan because it is vast enough to contain his anger and sorrow. Challenged by nature on more than one occasion, Declan finds a new focus for his creative energies. The characters Heneghan surrounds Declan with are heartfelt and unique, and I loved them all.
I enjoyed learning more about the conflict in Ireland and the larger ramifications of the pain it has caused, and I hope to read more Heneghan books in the future.
“He remembered the squirrel. It made no sense, any of it. How could Ana and Thomas and Kate get so upset over the death of a rodent – that’s all it was – when on the other side of the world they’d killed his sister and his ma, innocent people blown to pieces?” – Declan from Torn Apart by James Heneghan, page 133
“It is the last he ever sees of his ma and his sister, two dark wooden boxes, one of them small, on the shoulders of the IRA pall-bearers. He watches, his face pale in the cold spring sun. The pain he feels is unbearable, but he wants to guard it and nourish it so it will grow, and when it has grown powerful enough it will explode.” – Declan from Torn Apart by James Heneghan, page 153
“He watched the snow piling up on the branches of the trees, bending them lower and lower with its weight. When it seemed that the overladen branches were about to snap, they sprang suddenly back, catapulting showers of powdered snow into the air.
He turned. The ocean stretched out in front of him, flat and glimmering under a leaden sky. He stood in the cold brightness of the snow and felt the vast strength and peace of the land melting into him.” – Declan from Torn Apart by James Heneghan, page 243