Another Kind of Hurricane

336p. Schwartz & Wade. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780553511932.
Gr 4–7—Two stories of loss collide in this work of realistic fiction. Zavion and his father lose their house and everything they own in Hurricane Katrina. Zavion's already experienced the death of his mother, and he has created a personal code of conduct to help him survive. After he and his father take food from an abandoned convenience store in New Orleans, Zavion believes he has a debt to pay. That's going to be hard to do from Baton Rouge, where he and his father have relocated. Meanwhile, in Vermont, Henry is dealing with sudden death of his friend Wayne. Henry was with Wayne at the time, but the memories of the event are too painful for him to recall. The two boys passed a special marble back and forth for good luck for years. When Henry's mother donates some of his clothes to victims of Hurricane Katrina, she accidentally gives away the marble, which becomes the catalyst for merging the two plots, with Henry making his way to New Orleans in hopes of finding it and Zavion hatching his own plan to travel to the city to pay his debt. Smith excels at capturing the urgency of crisis, and strong, fast-paced openings of both plotlines pull readers right into the story. While the narrative is based on coincidence and chance, the voices and losses of Zavion and Henry are plausible and heartbreaking. Less believable are the many minor characters in the book, who are difficult to keep track of and who are sometimes inserted without context. However, the disorientation this creates is not entirely out of place here, since the novel mirrors the characters' feelings and experiences. The author is at her best when she conveys emotionally charged moments, with the prose reminiscent of a free verse poem; a particularly memorable moment involves the two main characters literally running into each other. It is refreshing to see the feelings of two middle grade boys explored so fearlessly.
VERDICT This is a novel that will spark contemplation and discussion.

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