Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby
This debut novel—about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about growing up and coming out—will make its way straight into your heart.
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.
I read this book in one day! Even though it is contemporary, I found it hard to put down.
Fig lives with her dad. She’s 11 and her mom left when she was a day old. So all she knows is living alone with her dad. Her brilliant musician dad who is mentally ill. Fig takes care of him, but it’s getting so hard. Hurricane season is the hardest. For some reason, her dad leaves the house and goes to the ocean during a bad storm. The police had to bring him home and got child protective services involved. Later a teacher calls them after Fig’s dad shows up frantic at school. So now they are visiting often, doing drug tests, and have given them the date at the end of November to discuss what will happen. Fig is determined to keep her dad with her.
Fig starts studying Van Gogh for an art project. She starts seeing her dad as Van Gogh. She reads everything she can on him. Her dad hasn’t written any songs since she was born, but he does give music lessons. Fig loves math, not the arts, but she wants to connect with and understand her dad more.
A new man moves in across the street and he starts helping Fig out with her dad. Her dad likes him and Mark has a way of calming her dad down. He helps her dad go to a doctor to find out what is wrong with him. Once he’s diagnosed as bi polar, Fig starts researching everything she can, too. She feels like Mark is becoming too big of a part in their lives and she still wants to take care of her dad. Even though it’s getting to be too much. We as readers get to see how it affects all aspects of Fig’s life, including with kids at school.
I thought the author did a great job with mental illness and what it can do to a family. I’m not bi polar, so I can’t say how accurate it is. But I do have family members who are and it did seem familiar. Figs emotions really showed throughout the book. And the love between Fig and her father was pretty incredible.
I gave this book 4 1/2 stars, rounded up to 5. Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for sending me a physical copy for review.
Warnings for mental illness, especially how erratic it can be. Also for child protection services and abandonment from a parent.
Is Hurricane Season on your TBR? Have you read it yet?