Dear Fellow Reader,
One of my pet peeves is when someone turns up their nose at a book because it is categorized as “YA” or Young Adult. (According to Wikipedia, Young adult fiction (YA) is a category of fiction written for readers from 12 to 18 years of age. While the genre is targeted to teenagers, approximately half the YA readers are adults. The subject matter and genres of YA correlate with the age and experience of the protagonist.)
There are so many good books that are in the category of YA that I think you are missing out on if you decide that you are going to skip this group of books. Books that come to my mind right away are the following: The Book Thief, The Hate U Give, and The Fault in our Stars. These were books that I don’t think you should miss just because they are in the YA category.
So, when I am offered a YA book to read, I don’t necessarily turn it down. I think the plots can be interesting and bring a viewpoint that I may not have had as a youth. (or that I may not have now…) When I was asked to read an advanced copy of the book Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby, I decided that I wanted to see what it was about and how it was written. Technically, the protagonist in the book is 11 so it is not a YA book. In my opinion, it should be at least in the YA category.
Hurricane Season tells the story of Fig Arnold. Fig is in 6th grade and is feeling alone. Not only is it easy to feel like the odd man out at that age, but Fig is not part of the popular crowd and she doesn’t have a mother. Fig’s mother left her at the age of 1 day in the hospital. Fig has been totally raised by her father. Her father loves her very much. He was a concert pianist and composer and once played all the top concert halls, but mental illness has taken that career away from him. His illness has them living in a small beach town and her father is drawn to the beach during hurricanes. This is dangerous and scary for Fig. Due to her father’s erratic behavior, (the police picked him up at the beach when a hurricane was about to hit and he came to school to get Fig out of class one day in a panic) their homelife is under the scrutiny of social service.
While living with her erratic father is hard for Fig, the thought of living without him is even worse. She takes on the cares of the world and feels she must keep it all a secret. The writing pulls you into the story and you feel terrible for Fig and you see that she has no idea how she can manage this situation.
As much as she doesn’t want to tell anyone, she finds a friend in one of her classmates who is willing to listen and not be judgmental. She also breaks through her fears and when her father has disappeared during a storm, she asks her new neighbor for help. These two connections help Fig. Through the neighbor’s kindness and intercession, her father starts to get the help he needs. The book does not show it as a magic pill to ease the situation but rather a process that has ups and downs but they start the hard work of getting her father better.
As a reader, you are drawn in and want to help Fig. She is trying so hard, but she is just a little girl. She is living a life that is way beyond what she should need to cope with at her age. You want to see that it will work out for her. There is no magic solution at the end but there is hope and love. Fig’s father loves her and doesn’t mean to do anything to hurt her or embarrass her. She knows this and she loves him despite being mad and frustrated sometimes.
This book has stayed with me in the last month or so since I read it. Now, there are a couple things about the book that I did question. The first thing is that Fig develops feelings for the cute high school girl who works at the library. I know that I am not in any way knowledgeable about such things, but I am always a bit taken back when an 11-year-old has sexual feelings. I’m not sure I knew anything about sex when I was that age. I understand that it can happen and that I may not be the norm. (But you always think that you are the norm, don’t you?) So, it was one thing for her to think about the girl but then she told her father about the attraction and she told the object of the attraction. Once again, I wondered if that would happen. Just because I would think that these feelings would be new to Fig and since she spends her life hiding things that she might not be as free to speak. And then she was rejected by the girl (nicely but still rejected) which didn’t see to phase her very much but that actually might be in keeping with an 11-year-old. Especially an 11-year-old with bigger fish to fry. I don’t know. I thought that it didn’t add to the story – it was a bit of a blip for me. The first place in the book where I kind of had the feeling of “what?”.
I think it is a story worth reading. I am glad that I did.
Thanks for reading!