Jane McAllister’s mother is an alcoholic. Her brother left home as soon as he could, leaving Jane to fend for herself. She handles the situation as best as she can, or at least as best as she thinks she should. She pays the bills, covers for her mother and is basically the adult responsible to take care of their crumbling home. Her brother asks her to move with him, but she can’t leave their mom.
Things get complicated when Jane’s mother causes an accident that almost kills them and her best friend, Cat. When Cat tells her that it’s time so seek help because covering for her mother is not helping anyone, Jane realizes that she can’t keep denying what’s going on. So she decides to join her brother Ethan and his team of tornado-chasing friends. Spending time away from her mother helps her put things in perspective, but is that enough to make the right decision? She’s very conflicted so it’ won’t be easy.
When I picked this book, I was expecting an action-oriented plot. After all, the characters chase storms and tornadoes. But although there’s a part of the book that’s clearly about the adventure, the heart of the story is Jane trying to come to terms with her mother’s alcoholism, her resentment towards her brother, and ultimately deciding to stop sacrificing her life to take care of her mother who clearly isn’t willing to get better.
Jane was a great heroine. She is in a tricky situation, one of those that are really easy to figure out when you see them as an outsider, but not so easy when they happen to you. Her character reflected that conflict because although at times it was obvious she knew what was right, it was just as obvious that she was trying to convince herself of the contrary. She knew that protecting her mother wasn’t helping, but she kept making excuses. I thought it was an interesting portrayal of the situation, it felt authentic and it gave Jane a reason to be much more mature than your regular teenager.
Another significant aspect of the book was Jane’s relationship with her brother, Ethan. Since we only see him through Jane’s eyes, he mostly comes across as a self-involved nice guy. He’s not evil, and he wants what’s best for Jane, but he’s not willing to sacrifice his life for her. I was an interesting contrast between those characters and I would have loved to see more of their relationship and maybe even into his head. We don’t get his POV, and I think it was a missed opportunity to give his character some depth.
The romance doesn’t overtake the plot but it’s very sweet. In just a few pages there are a couple of cute scenes, a big misunderstanding and a grand gesture. So I’m calling it a romance. Max was just a love interest but I really like their story and how realistic and appropriate the resolution was.
I liked the adventure aspect of the book, but it felt a bit disjointed. The only correlation between tornado chasing and Jane’s situation was a subplot involving a secondary character suffering from PTSD. But I just felt like her story would have worked against any other background, not just this one in particular. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the action, but it’s not the main reason why the book worked for me.
Overall this was an entertaining story that deals with a dark subject and yet manages to be light at the same time. It's dramatic, but not overly so. The main character is conflicted and compelling. The ending was a bit rushed, but I was satisfied with how things turned out for everyone involved, a realistic happy ending with no miracles. I think fans of YA will love it.
Review by Brie
One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane's life for the better.
Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can't quite admit her mother's alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane's best friend.
Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty--is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture.
Putnam Juvenile. August 2, 2011.