Tornado Warning: a Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life by Elin Stebbins Waldal is the beautifully told story of the author’s survival of horrific domestic violence as a teenager. Ms. Waldal uses journal entries from those years to paint a picture for readers of how easily someone can slide into an abusive situation, be stripped of her own power, and feel too helpless, worthless, and ashamed to be able to extricate herself from it. In between journal entries are present reflections on what happened, showing us a woman who, though not completely unaffected, has done a tremendous amount of healing, learning, and growing. We also see a mother who is fiercely determined not to let her own daughter have the same experience, and is teaching her sons well.
This is a book that all parents should read, then hand to their teenagers – girls and boys. Rather than get “preachy” about signs and statistics, she simply shows us how it happens. Although she uses journal entries from her teenage years, the language she uses isn’t overflowing with teenage words and phrases, trying to be cool and appeal to teenage readers. It’s authentic and easy to connect with, regardless of the age of the reader. The author doesn’t hold back, either. Occasionally, the journal entries are detailed, but not too graphic. She also briefly addresses her painful decision to remove herself and her young son from a verbally abusive marriage as the effects of the verbal abuse were beginning to take their toll on her and her child.
Tornado Warning is not a story of a girl who was abandoned or abused at home. She did not grow up in abject poverty. She was not a homeless runaway. She grew up in a fairly affluent area of the country with loving parents. Her story is relevant and very relatable because it shatters any preconceived ideas that this doesn’t happen in “nice” or “rich” families or that it only happens to “bad” girls. This book highlights how easily domestic violence can happen to anyone.
It’s easy to understand why this book is a Moms Choice Awards® Gold Recipient for 2011 in the Adult Book category.
Favorite line: I am alive … I am alive … I am me and I am alive.
Favorite passage (from the post script):
I think I was nudged awake by the silenced girl of my youth, and if I hold very still I can hear her voice reverberate across the water. In a tune as pure as a first snowfall I hear her sing to me that she is safe in the basin of a harbor. She is no longer silent.
I am not silent.
I am home. I have my voice.