Review: Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner

Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey’s sister is killed in an accident — maybe because of Torrey and her videos — Torrey’s perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn’t know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey’s internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there’s Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?

Title: Can’t Look Away
Author: Donna Cooner
Source: ARC from Netgalley
Publication date: August 26, 2014

I received Can’t Look Away from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I requested Can’t Look Away because I thought that reading about a vlogger would be interesting, even though I have no interest in actually watching vlogs or much of anything else on Youtube. It’s similar enough to blogging for me to be able to relate to it, but on a grander scale.

At the beginning of Can’t Look Away, Torrey is self-centered and has a highly-inflated sense of her importance to the world at large.

In only a few days, I’ll be part of this new world — bling, cowboy boots, and all. I nod, weakly, and watch Raylene turn and practically skip out the front door. Taking me to school with her probably just increased her popularity by 100 percent.

Except that, laughably, none of the students at her new school know who she is, at least not at first. She doesn’t seem to realize that Youtube-famous isn’t the same thing as actually being famous. Most people have never heard of her. Most people don’t care who she is. Or that her sister died. It’s kind of like being a reality TV star; it’s a very limited niche. I once saw Monet from Big Brother in a store. “Monet who?” you say.


Sure, some vloggers cross-over into real fame, but it’s rare. It’s probably going to happen more in the future, but I kind of doubt fashion and makeup vloggers are going to be leading the charge. There’s one of them on some current commercial but if you asked me her name or to pick her out of a lineup, I wouldn’t have a clue. I only know she’s a beauty vlogger because there’s a caption on the screen that say she is.

But let’s go with it. Let’s say Torrey is ~famous and everyone knows who she is. It still doesn’t excuse her snobbery. She looks down on everything and everyone that doesn’t meet her high expectations and she absolutely believes she deserves to be part of the popular group in her new school just because she’s the famous Torrey Grey. I think the book might have worked better if her family hadn’t moved to a new state (Colorado to Texas) and she was being confronted with the loss of her popularity because of the way her sister died. Not that it was her fault — it wasn’t — but I can see high schoolers turning against her and blaming her the way she blames herself, especially if she carries over her “I’m super special because I vlog” attitude into real life.

She also thinks about how she can use her sister’s death and the sentencing of of the drunk driver who killed her to garner even more hits to her vlog.

So…not a huge fan of Torrey.

I am, however, a fan of Luis. Luis is the son of a funeral home owner, which means people think he’s a little creepy and weird. There’s more to it than that, and as Torrey gets to know him in spite of herself, she learns more about his past and why he’s more of an outcast now — and why he doesn’t care. While Torrey’s likely to flounder around for years with no real sense of purpose or direction, Luis knows what he has to do and where it’s going to take him in life. The most interesting parts of the book revolve around Luis and his family and culture, especially Día de los Muertos. I even watched a sugar skull makeup tutorial on, yes, Youtube just so I could see the kind of effect Torrey was creating.

I also like how Torrey takes what she learns about Día de los Muertos and applies it to her own life as she learns to grieve the loss of her sister and, as she matures, the relationship she and Luis develop. Torrey’s cousin is also a fun character. She’s obsessed with popularity in her own way, and she goes about it in a more typical fashion, with more than a little desperation. Somehow that’s more tolerable to me than Torrey’s way. Maybe it’s because she has a cat. People with cats get automatic bonus points from me.

Can’t Look Away is fairly predictable in its storyline, but the Youtube angle, the character of Luis and, Día de los Muertos give it a little more of an unusual feel.

3 1/2 stars



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