Title: Hurricane Season
Author: Nicole Melleby
Genre: Realistic Middle Grade Fiction
Number of Pages: 288
Nicole Melleby is quickly becoming one of my favorite middle grade writers. Even though I didn’t like this quite as much as How to Become a Planet and In the Role of Brie Hutchens… I still found it to be an emotionally affecting story with a lot to offer. Fig is an introverted pre-teen whose musician father has bipolar disorder. He was somewhat famous at one time but fell apart when Fig was born, so she irrationally blames herself for his decline. Fig’s mom abandoned them several days after Fig was born so it’s just her and her dad.
They’re pretty co-dependent and Fig feels like she has to be the ‘adult.’ Like Melleby’s other young heroines, Fig is gay and is just starting to become aware of her feelings for other girls. Her dad is also gay (or more likely, bi) and becomes involved with their neighbor Mark, who lends a helping hand when Fig and her dad are having a particularly tough time.
When Fig finds out she’s mad that her dad wasn’t honest with her, and she feels like Mark is stealing him away from her. Hurricane Season is a well-written and thought-provoking middle grade novel with a strong father-daughter relationship at its center. One problem I had with it is that when Mark comes into their lives Fig’s dad immediately seems to get better.
He starts going to therapy and taking medication and even though it’s clear his recovery is an ongoing process it feels too neat and tidy, like Mark is this big fixer and righter of wrongs. Parents with bipolar disorder in fiction are usually portrayed as self-centered and oblivious to their children’s needs (like Marigold in The Illustrated Mum) but I didn’t get that sense from Fig’s dad.
He really seemed to care and want to be there for her, even though his illness sometimes didn’t allow him to do that. I thought it was interesting how Fig wanted to be more like her father in a way rather than less. She joined an art class even though she didn’t really like art and started to feel a connection to the work of Vincent Van Gogh.
It was a different twist on the typical premise of the kid who doesn’t want to be anything like their mentally ill parent/sibling. I thoroughly enjoyed this book overall and I liked how Nicole Melleby can create understated gay storylines for her characters with a refreshing absence of cliches.
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