Torn Away

  • Originally published in Canada and the USA by Penguin Viking, 1994.
  • Paperback by Puffin, 1996.
  • Cornelsen in Germany (in English for use in German High Schools).
  • DTV Junior Paperback in Germany (in German).
  • Republished in Canada and USA by Orca Book Publishing in September 2003.

arthurellisGIFWinner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, 1994

YALSAnew2American Library Association (YALSA) Our Choice list of Best Books for Young Adults

Child Study Children’s Book Committee Pick

Nominated for:

  • Sheila A. Egoff B.C. Book Prize for Children’s Literature

“With Torn Away Heneghan has moved to the forefront of North American writers for young adults.” Andrea Deakin, The Vancouver Sun

“Powerful… fast-paced and engrossing action. Highly recommended.” Quill & Quire



At 13, Declan is smart, strong, self-sufficient – and a terrorist. His battleground: the grim, narrow streets of Belfast; his enemy: the British. He has thrown stones at their soldiers and hurled gasoline bombs at their armored cars. Now he’s been torn away from his native soil and sent to live in Canada with his uncle Matthew, who left Ireland to escape the endless fighting. Matthew and his family offer Declan the chance of a new life in a new place. But Declan feels he has to return to Ireland to settle the score with the British who killed his parents and his sister. Will he trade the love of his new family for a lifetime of vengeance?


Ripped from the headlines! Two of my teenage novels began with magazine pictures.” Torn Away” was inspired by a picture in Time Magazine (Jan 11, 1982) of a funeral. A boy had lost his father, gunned down by terrorists. The picture shows the coffin, a crowd of mourners, flowers, and the sad and bitter face of a 13 year-old boy. I knew immediately that I would have to tell that story. “Promises to Come” started with a picture in Maclean’s Magazine (April 29, 1985) of a tiny fishing boat crowded with Vietnamese refugees. The novel tells the story of Kim, a 16 year-old girl, how she struggles to survive against bombs and napalm, slow starvation in an orphanage, capture and abuse by pirates.


FROM MARY FRANCES HILL IN THE VANCOUVER COURIER (June 5, 1994). …It’s the first time Heneghan’s work has been exposed to young U.S. readers. Heneghan, who’s been writing youth books since 1979, grew up in Liverpool, England. Born of Irish parents, he lived in Ireland for six years as a child and came to Canada in 1957. Rather than provide a hard narrative on Irish-British politics, Heneghan describes the plight of Northern Ireland through Declan’s raw emotion and his desire to avenge his family’s death. In “Torn Away”, Declan resists gestures of warmth and kindness from his aunt and uncle with continual assurance he’ll never turn into a “fixer,” or someone who shows compassion. But the serenity of B.C., the friendship of a First Nations boy and another orphan taken in by his aunt and uncle bring humanity and a sense of hope to his life. Heneghan says he was inspired by journalistic scenes of young people attending funeral of their parents and family members who fell victim to the violence in the fractured country. Heneghan is no stranger to violent scenes. As a police department worker in Britain and Vancouver, he photographed and sketched scale drawings of murder scenes. He worked as a fingerprint technician for the Vancouver police department until 1971. He taught English from 1972-82 at Burnaby Heights school, where he found young “non-readers who didn’t like what was on the curriculum.” As a teacher he saw the benefits of literature being taught, but understood adolescents’ desire for escapism and vicarious adventure. “I like to write what I would have read when I was a kid,” says Heneghan, who recalls “devouring” books depicting violence and adventure, such as “The Saint” novel series. Heneghan says he’s braced for the inevitable criticism of depicting violence in a book for young people: one Canadian publisher turned the book down due to its portrayal of violence in Declan’s life. Heneghan doesn’t take seriously the claim these depictions move youth to commit violent acts. Violence “has more to do with unemployment than anything else,” he says. “Torn Away” and such images on TV and in movies often have a cathartic effect. “Some people won’t want their kids to read it. My answer is, ‘This is happening. This is the world we are living in.'”

tornawayenggermanFROM ANDREA DEAKIN IN THE VANCOUVER SUN (June 25, 1994). …This is a powerful story, fast-paced yet contemplative, enriched by skillful use of symbolism and a cast of appealing, real people. With “Torn Away”, Vancouver author James Heneghan has moved to the forefront of North American writers for young adults.

FROM HAZEL ROCHMAN IN BOOKLIST (Grades 7-10). …The story is satisfyingly predictable: we know that Declan will slowly become less rebellious and succumb to the love of his relatives and to the wild beauty of the coastal town near Vancouver. The moral is clear: violence solves nothing. That lesson’s too heavily underlined at times, especially with the suddenly interposed revelation that Declan’s father was not a hero, but an informer. However, readers will feel for the desperate boy nearly destroyed by civil war. The best scenes evoke his haunting memories of guns and firebombs and contrast those nightmares with the rich silence of the wilderness and the kindness of community.

tornawaypaperjpgFROM KIRKUS REVIEW (April 15, 1994). …Declan is a credible, even a likable, character, shaped by his violent environment (demonstrating how he pelted British troops with nail- studded apples, he kills a squirrel and is genuinely surprised by witnesses’ outrage) but not irredeemably hardened; in the end, the forest’s quiet beauty and the pleasures of having a family again work in him the change of heart that appeals to morality and intellect could not. Heneghan gives glimpses of injustices perpetrated by every side in Northern Ireland, suggesting no easy cures but offering the insight that even some of the villains are victims. (Fiction. 11-14) — Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

FROM HORN BOOK. Thirteen-year-old Declan is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Canada after he tries to avenge the deaths of his mother and sister by performing terrorist activities in Northern Ireland. The story of how he comes to accept the love and contentment offered by his new, makeshift family is thoughtful and moving. — Copyright © 1994 The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.