Orca. (Orca Soundings). Jan. 2021. 112p. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781459827264.
Gr 7 Up–It’s Friday afternoon and 16-year-old Cam is finishing up an exam in his school’s portable classroom when the power suddenly fails because of a distant storm and school closes early. Cam assumes he won’t need to pick up his little brother, Peter, from the bus stop for another three hours, so he goes with his girlfriend, Ava, buddy Adam, and another classmate to get burgers. Cam has the perfect girlfriend, Adam’s mom’s perfect BMW convertible, and a perfect summer job lined up at the marina. But then a powerful tornado tears through the area, destroying homes and tossing cars from the highway. Cam, badly injured, is suddenly faced with tracking down missing Peter amid a spiraling disaster. To compound matters, the chaotic situation has exposed secrets and fault lines within his own family, as well as unspoken resentments between them and the families of his friends. Details of the crash and the mayhem in the community following the storm are at times detailed and blunt, appropriate to the narrative and audience, but possibly troubling to sensitive readers. The writing occasionally veers into cliché and unsubtle metaphor, though that doesn’t detract from the book. Jennings notes in the acknowledgments that some details of the story are drawn from news accounts of a tornado that struck Barrie, Ontario, near Toronto, in 1985. Main characters’ appearances aren’t described.
VERDICT Whether for hooking reluctant readers or offering a quick, gripping tale for independent reading, this entry in the high-interest “Orca Soundings” series is a thrilling romp.

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