One day, I want to write children’s books. I adore children’s books, especially middle grade stories when kids are developed enough to understand complex story lines, but before all the teenage drama that eventually will ensue. I also love coming-of-age stories, and they are common for that age. Not to mention: the covers are so colorful and beautiful and happy.
So currently, I’m reading a lot of children’s books, because while I don’t listen and adhere to many of the traditional “writing advices” other writers share so generously, there is one piece of advice I do follow:
I can’t write if I don’t read, that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? And I need to read more before I can attempt to write any myself.
So while doing that, I stumbled on an absolutely fantastic book: Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby.
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.
(Look at that pretty cover, which is extra pretty when you’ve read the book and know that Fig, the MC is obsessed with Vincent Van Gogh – look at that swirly sky!!)
This is an absolutely fantastic book and everyone should read it, whether you’re a middle grader or a soon-to-be forty-seven year old woman like yours truly. It also has LGBT representation which is why I’m writing about it here on the blog. If we ever are to rid ourselves of bigotry of any kind, we need to educate our kids. And what better way to do that than normalize it by telling inclusive stories?
The LGBT aspect is handled beautifully in this book. When Fig (who’s a wonderful character) realizes she likes girls instead of boys and tells her dad Tim, his reaction is great. He listens to her and accepts her truth without questioning it. Without showing the slightest bit of hesitation.
But also, if this had been a M/M romance book, it would be labeled as a double-GFY (and I know the GFY label is problematic and I agree with the arguments why we shouldn’t call it that, but this story is told from Fig’s POV so we don’t get any insight to whether either of the grown up men have liked other men before) because it turns out that Fig’s dad falls in love with their new neighbor Mark. Both men have only had relationships with women before, but when Mark helps Fig with her dad, they connect.
And as a M/M writer, I watched their relationship unfold through Fig’s eyes. She didn’t understand it the way I did, and when she found out by accident she was angry. But not because her father likes another man, but because he kept it a secret from her, and because when she told him her truth, he didn’t reciprocate. Valid reasons to be angry, if you ask me.
Also, the M/M reader in me screams for Tim and Mark’s story from a romance POV. Watching their relationship unfold through the eyes of the eleven-year-old protagonist was interesting and fabulous, but I want more. I want their points-of-view. Their backgrounds, their feelings, their deepening connection. Is that too much to ask?? 🙂
Anyway. Buy this book for any middle grader in your life. Or for anyone who loves books ,really. It kept me up all night reading it, and I sobbed for an hour straight, that’s how good it is! 🙂