Tag Archives: hurricane

Review: Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan

Don't Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan

Don’t Call Me a Hurricane
Ellen Hagan
Published July 19, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Don’t Call Me a Hurricane

An affecting and resonant YA novel in verse that explores family, community, the changing ocean tides, and what it means to fall in love with someone who sees the world in a different way.

It’s been five years since a hurricane ravaged Eliza Marino’s life and home in her quiet town on the Jersey shore. Now a senior in high school, Eliza is passionate about fighting climate change-starting with saving Clam Cove Reserve, an area of marshland that is scheduled to be turned into buildable lots. Protecting the island helps Eliza deal with her lingering trauma from the storm, but she still can’t shake the fear that something will come along and wash out her life once again.
When Eliza meets Milo Harris at a party, she tries to hate him. Milo is one of the rich tourists who flock to the island every summer. But after Eliza reluctantly agrees to give Milo surfing lessons, she can’t help falling for him. Still, Eliza’s not sure if she’s ready to risk letting an outsider into the life she’s rebuilt. Especially once she discovers that Milo is keeping a devastating secret.
Told in stunning verse, DON’T CALL ME A HURRICANE is a love story for the people and places we come from, and a journey to preserve what we love most about home.

My Review

I think this is my favorite solo novel by Ellen Hagan. I loved the descriptions of Eliza out on the water, whether she was swimming or surfing. Those felt so much like my own experiences when I’m out on the water and feeling connected to nature and what’s happening around me.

Another great thing about DON’T CALL ME A HURRICANE is the scenes showing the meetings to raise awareness and protect the island’s marshland. It gave a visual to Eliza’s activism– though we see that in lots of other areas, too. She makes conscious decisions to buy clothes from thrift stores rather than purchase fast fashion items. She bikes all over the island. She and her siblings compete to see who can take the shortest showers to save water.

Those things might seem extreme to someone who isn’t experiencing the effects of climate change in their community. But as Eliza grapples with rising tides and new construction devastating natural habitats, her decisions, her proactiveness make so much sense. (Not that it should take direct experience to make a change…)

Eliza’s story isn’t simply the story of a girl fighting for climate justice. It’s also the story of a girl wrestling with trauma from surviving a violent hurricane, and a girl falling in love for the first time. Her emotional journey through the pages of the story gripped me. I loved each triumph and rooted for her through each heartbreak.

I think readers who enjoyed THE SEA IS SALT AND SO AM I by Cassandra Hartt or WE DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS by Adi Alsaid will not want to miss this one.

Content Notes for Don’t Call Me a Hurricane

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Eliza’s family is Sicilian American. Her best friend Isa is Puerto Rican. Another friend is nonbinary.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Eliza practices meditation to help manage her anxiety.

Violent Content
Eliza revisits memories of the hurricane that destroyed her home and nearly killed a family member.

Drug Content
Eliza and her friends get drunk and vandalize a home that’s under construction.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of DON’T CALL ME A HURRICANE in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

Hurricane Season
Nicole Melleby
Algonquin Young Readers
Available May 7, 2019

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.

Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.

Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power.

My Review

One of my favorite things about HURRICANE SEASON is the evolution of Fig’s relationship with her dad. At the beginning she really idolizes him and feels super defensive of him, even when he’s doing things that make her life a lot harder. She blames their problems on her teacher who called social services. Or on hurricane season for drawing her dad to the shoreline during its dangerous storms.

As Fig’s dad’s behavior deteriorates and starts to affect her relationships at school, she grows to resent him and his mental health problems. She feels guilty and frustrated at herself, and eventually frustrated with her dad when he’s not able to do things with her that she needs, like going to an art exhibit that’s important to her, or going to her art show at school.

Even as their relationship frays, Fig and her dad continue to share rituals that bond them. I loved their exchange: “I love you.” “Double it.” “Love you, love you.”

And in the midst of it all, a miracle happens. A new person joins their family, and as so often happens when a situation is out of control, it’s that person who helps everyone realize how untenable things have become. I liked this catalyst character in the story, too, though at times he seemed almost too perfect.

I loved the way HURRICANE SEASON used details about Van Gogh’s life and his work to frame what was happening with Fig’s dad and even Fig herself.

Also worthy of note: this is a medication-positive story. Fig’s dad eventually begins taking medication to regulate his mental health, and while the solution isn’t perfect– the story shows some difficulty getting dosage and prescriptions right for him– it’s clear that it makes a positive difference in all of their lives.

Readers who enjoyed THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS by Ann Braden or NEST by Esther Ehrlich need to put HURRICANE SEASON on their reading lists.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 to 14.

All the major characters are white. Fig’s dad is from London. Fig likes girls. A man begins a romantic relationship with another man.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used once.

Romance/Sexual Content
Two men kiss. A girl has a crush on another girl.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content

Drug Content 

Note: I received a free copy of HURRICANE SEASON by Nicole Melleby in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links which cost you nothing but which help support this blog.

Review: Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle

Meet the Sky
McCall Hoyle
Published on September 4, 2018

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About Meet the Sky
It all started with the accident. The one that caused Sophie’s dad to walk out of her life. The one that left Sophie’s older sister, Meredith, barely able to walk at all.

With nothing but pain in her past, all Sophie wants is to plan for the future—keep the family business running, get accepted to veterinary school, and protect her mom and sister from another disaster. But when a hurricane forms off the coast of North Carolina’s Outer Banks and heads right toward their island, Sophie realizes nature is one thing she can’t control.

After she gets separated from her family during the evacuation, Sophie finds herself trapped on the island with the last person she’d have chosen—the reckless and wild Finn Sanders, who broke her heart freshman year. As they struggle to find safety, Sophie learns that Finn has suffered his own heartbreak; but instead of playing it safe, Finn’s become the kind of guy who goes surfing in the eye of the hurricane. He may be the perfect person to remind Sophie how to embrace life again, but only if their newfound friendship can survive the storm.

My Review

One of my favorite things about Hoyle’s debut novel, The Thing with Feathers (my review here)was the way she used Emily Dickinson’s poetry throughout the book. Which means one of my favorite parts of Meet the Sky was the way she used the Tennyson quotes at the beginning of each chapter and also at pivotal moments in the story itself. Honestly, I didn’t realize some of those quotes were written by Tennyson before reading this book. For example, “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I’m not sure who I thought wrote that, but I didn’t realize it was Tennyson. So yay. Learned something new.

In addition, I liked Sophie’s character a lot. I kind of wanted to see more of her interaction with her sister and her mom. We know her sister is different since the accident, but I felt like I didn’t get to experience that firsthand, other than a very brief scene in the beginning of the book.

The story isn’t really about Sophie and Mere’s relationship, though. It’s much more about the hurricane mishaps that force Sophie to reconnect with her childhood crush/friend Finn. I liked Finn and the contrast between his character (risk-taking and adventurous) and Sophie’s (so many control issues).

I read another book recently (Even if the Sky Falls) in which characters are trapped together by a hurricane. I feel kind of funny about it because I live in Florida and have been through probably half a dozen hurricanes, so as I read both books, I kept comparing my experiences to what’s described in the book, and feeling really sensitive to whether something seemed realistic. Which might not be really fair, since one book took place in New Orleans and the other in North Carolina, which are really different areas than where I live.

At any rate, in this book, Sophie and Finn do a bunch of stuff during the hurricane that’s really dangerous, like going outside during the storm. For the story, it made things super dramatic, and I kept wanting to yell at them, like noooo, go back inside! This is bad! I had a hard time with that part – not because I thought it was unrealistic. People do impulsive, dangerous things during hurricanes all the time.

On the whole Meet the Sky is a sweet romance about learning to let go of fear in order to experience love and a full life. I think fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Jenn Bennett will like this one.

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Cultural Elements
Major characters are white or not physically described. Sophie’s sister Mere has lost some mobility and has memory issues resulting from a traumatic brain injury. She’s a very minor character in the story.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
A couple references to swearing—things like, thinking words that would make her mother angry.

Romance/Sexual Content
Finn makes a couple of vaguely suggestive comments. Sophie undresses a boy down to his underwear after he collapses in wet clothes and goes into shock. Sophie wakes up in a different shirt and realizes she was undressed and dressed again by someone else. She’s embarrassed, but neither of these instances are really sexual. She doesn’t linger on any details.
Brief kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Finn talks with Sophie about living deep and sucking all the marrow out of life. She has a lot of fears and dependence on control, whereas he seems to take a lot of risks and yet has a lot more peace than she has. She craves his contentment.

Violent Content
Descriptions of a car accident with injuries. Some injuries resulting from being outside during a hurricane.
Also a couple of times, characters break windows or steal things (medicine, food, etc) while they’re stranded during the hurricane.

Drug Content
Sophie’s dad became an alcoholic after the accident that injured her sister. At one point, Finn offers Sophie Jack Daniels (meaning for her to use the alcohol to sterilize a wound) and she recoils, thinking about her dad and how she doesn’t want to be anything like him.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Even if the Sky Falls by Mia Garcia

Even if the Sky Falls
Mia Garcia
Katherine Tegen Books
Published on May 10, 2016

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About Even if the Sky Falls
All she needs is one night to be anyone she wants.

Julie is desperate for a change. So she heads to New Orleans with her youth group to rebuild houses and pretend her life isn’t a total mess. But between her super-clingy team leader and her way-too-chipper companions, Julie feels more trapped than ever.

In a moment of daring, she ditches her work clothes for DIY fairy wings and heads straight into the heart of Mid-Summer Mardi Gras, where she locks eyes with Miles, an utterly irresistible guy with a complicated story of his own. And for once, Julie isn’t looking back. She jumps at the chance to see the real New Orleans, and in one surreal night, they dance under the stars, share their most shameful secrets, and fall in love.

But their adventure takes an unexpected turn when an oncoming hurricane changes course. As the storm gains power and Julie is pulled back into chaos she finds pretending everything is fine is no longer an option.

My Review
I’m a little torn in how I feel about this book. On the one hand, Julie’s story drew me in immediately. Obviously she’s recovering from something intense, but we don’t learn right away what’s happened to wreck her so deeply.

Then she gets this opportunity to escape her past completely for a little while. I loved the characters in the band she meets and especially Miles. It only took like half a second for me to start hoping Miles and Julie would get together.

The hurricane descriptions were pretty wild. As a Floridian, I’ve weathered several storms. I’m not sure I buy that so much happened from a Category 2 storm, but I’m sure it depends on a lot of factors, like which side of the storm hit them and that sort of thing. Certainly no matter what category it is, being outside in a hurricane is really dangerous!

What I really struggled with, though, is the ending. The romance gets resolved, and that was great. But all the way along Julie flashes back to what happened at home before the mission trip, and I think I wanted those two worlds to collide more completely. I was hoping her family or her brother would make an appearance at the end and we’d know she’d turned a corner even in her ability to deal with things at home. Not that everything had to be fixed, just some kind of scene tying things together.

Other than that, I’m glad I read it. I hate that Julie had such a bad experience on her mission trip, because I have such fun memories of my own trips. But considering what was going on in her life, it made perfect sense that she would feel alienated and unable to connect with the enthusiasm of the rest of the group.

The descriptions of New Orleans were fun and vivid – I felt like I was there, and I’ve been craving beignets since reading about them. Yum!

Even if the Sky Falls is a great pick for fans of The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith or Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett.Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Cultural Elements
Julie is Latina and talks about visiting relatives in Puerto Rico.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Infrequent use of extreme profanity.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between a boy and girl. At one point a boy and girl go swimming in their underwear. References to sex. One scene shows some nudity and lets us know the characters have had sex without any graphic details.

Julie’s mission leader clearly wants a relationship with her. He’s clingy and clearly makes her uncomfortable, since he seems willfully blind to her “no” signals. He doesn’t assault her or anything like that, but he does make her feel gross.

Spiritual Content
Julie’s family is Catholic and she’s on a mission trip with a church group, but it’s clear she has a lot of doubts in terms of her own faith. She’s bitter and depressed and feels like the church people don’t understand her and are too happy-happy.

Violent Content
Someone tries to choke Julie. She escapes.

The storm beats Julie and her friend up pretty badly. There’s one scene where they battle the elements, and things look pretty grim. Some details about injuries. It’s definitely a perilous situation.

Drug Content
Julie and her companion drink beer at a party and later share a bottle of wine.

September Update: Five Ways You Can Help

If you know me on social media, you probably saw that it was my birthday this month, and that Hurricane Irma dropped in uninvited and altered all my plans. One of the hazards of having a September birthday in Florida.

At any rate, we survived the storm, and I’m back to work, and hoping to actually celebrate my birthday soon, but all of this got me started thinking. What if instead of a hundred comments on Facebook saying happy birthday, I could ask for something equally free and simple, but much more meaningful? What if you could support me in a way that costs you nothing more than a few seconds of time but makes a difference for the whole year?

So I came up with a list of ideas which I’m now wishing I posted earlier in the month, before my actual birthday. Note to self for next year. Here are some free, easy ways you can support The Story Sanctuary and me as a writer, blogger, book reviewer, or friend.

1. Subscribe to The Story Sanctuary. You’ll get my posts as emails, which means you’ll never miss an update. It also helps me gain access to the best current releases in young adult and middle grade. It only takes a second and you can do it by entering your email address in the field in the sidebar.

2. Like my Facebook Page. Mostly this just makes me feel loved. 🙂 I’m not a huge Facebook girl, but I like to post what I’m reading, calls for recommendations on what to read next, or random silly bookish things I come across in my travels across the interweb. Here’s the link to my page.

3. Follow me on Pinterest. I love the way Pinterest organizes links into cool visual lists. There, you’ll find lists of my reviews organized by genre or subject (I have a board for books about mermaids) and a lot of other great bookish fun. I have a board for bookshelves and one for bookish gift ideas. Christmas is coming, y’all. Find all my boards here to follow me.

4. Add my book, Reviews Wanted, on Goodreads. Hop over to my book on Goodreads. Mark it as “Want to Read.” Leave a quick review and rating if you’ve read it. Bonus points if you add it to a list on Goodreads Listopia.

5. Use my Amazon Affiliate links when you want to purchase a book. These are the links and buttons in each review post that take you to Amazon’s site. If you plan to buy the book, use the link, and a small percent of the purchase will support my blog. Right now I’m earning about $30 per year through these links, which is basically covers shipping costs of giveaways and a few of the books I buy for review.

Fun fact: If you click one of my Amazon links and then browse for or buy other stuff while on Amazon, those orders will help support me, too. So click away!

Side note: Leaving reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads is a huge help to authors and helps their books gain better visibility and more readers. If you’ve read Reviews Wanted, please take a minute and post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It’s a huge help.

If you haven’t read my book and are interested in doing so, leave me a comment! I can send out some review copies and would be happy to do so. It’s a quick read at about 50 pages and offers lots of tips and suggestions for authors on how to connect with bloggers like me. You don’t have to be an author to read the book and leave a review, and it’s another great way to support The Story Sanctuary.

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Thanks for reading and for supporting what I do. My goal is to provide detailed reviews of teen and preteen books to help readers, parents, and educators determine when a book is right for them. I couldn’t do it without you!