I always have a little trepidation reviewing a book written by someone I know in a professional capacity, so as much as I’ve been excited to read Hurricane Season since finding out it was being published last year, I was also really worried about giving it an honest review. But not only can I say that I enjoyed it, but it was so good it made me cry the good tears and I want to ship a copy to literally every person I know. I’m not usually one to read YA or middle-grade, but this was a special story. Fig is an amazingly relatable little girl and her internal struggle between just wanting to be a kid finding her way through the trials and tribulations of early puberty and keeping her bi-polar dad from ruining their lives is an emotional journey I didn’t know I needed to take.
Fig Arnold is just an average sixth grader trying to navigate middle school while also having to navigate the adult world of bills, household management, and keeping social services at bay as her father, a once renowned pianist, struggles to get out of bed some days, and manically disappears into storms looking for his music on others. It’s a lot for one sixth grade girl to handle, especially as she begins to realize that her father’s illness could cost them everything.
Melleby expertly captures the complicated reality of loving and trying to care for a mentally ill parent while still wearing children’s shoes. Fig and her dad’s love is so palpable it hurts, and you feel for both characters as the story unfolds because both Fig and the reader know her dad can’t help what he does, but we all see the impending disaster coming. It’s heartfelt and truthful, never shying away from the difficult conversations. One of my favorite parts of this story is that Melleby doesn’t give in to the ‘quick fix’ trope. Dad doesn’t go see one doctor and is suddenly and miraculously the perfectest dad ever. The process is real and full of setbacks, disappointment, and anger. And even when he’s really trying, sometimes he still fails. But despite the difficulties and the stress and the absolute imperfection of it all, Fig and her dad are committed to each other no matter the cost.
I had the opportunity of being in the same MFA program as Melleby, and in my second semester, she presented her thesis on LGBTQ inclusion in YA fiction. Her thesis focused on how disappointed she had been growing up to never see characters like herself in YA literature. And years later, when she finally did, their stories were wrapped up in their self-identifying, and their ‘struggle’ of coming to terms with who they were. She never felt like those stories reflected the reality of being LGBTQ because all those stories missed the core of humanity; the fact that an LGBTQ character just happens to be LGBTQ, but is dealing with all the same human problems as any other character out there. Hurricane Season is an example of the LGBTQ character done the way she had always wanted. Fig happens to realize she likes girls. Fig and her dad have a conversation about it, but it’s a few paragraphs amidst the much bigger and more pressing issues of their human story: the love and connection between a daughter and her father.
5 stars for excellent characters and a heartfelt and well-told story.
Bingo Square: Own Voices