Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   How far would you go to protect a sibling-and at what cost to yourself?

In Those Who Save Us, Jenna Blum proved herself a master storyteller with brilliant insight into the spectrum of human emotion. Now, Blum turns her sights to the most intimate and mysterious of family relationships-that between twins-in her powerful and provocative second novel.

As a teenager, Karena Jorge had always been the one to look out for her twin brother Charles, who suffers from bipolar disorder. But as Charles begins to refuse medication and his manic tendencies worsen, Karena finds herself caught between her loyalty to her brother and her fear for his life. Always obsessed with the weather-enraptured by its magical unpredictability that seemed to mirror his own impulses- Charles starts chasing storms, and his behavior grows increasingly erratic . . . until a terrifying storm chase with Karena ends with deadly consequences, tearing the twins apart and changing both of their lives forever.

Two decades later, Karena gets a call from a psychiatric ward in Wichita, Kansas, to come pick up her brother, whom she hasn't seen or spoken to for twenty years. She soon discovers that Charles has lied to the doctors, taken medication that could make him dangerously manic, and disappeared again. Having exhausted every resource to try and track him down, Karena realizes she has only one last chance of finding him: the storms. Wherever the tornadoes are, that's where he'll be. Karena joins a team of professional stormchasers-passionate adventurers who will transform her life and give her a chance at love and redemption- and embarks on an odyssey to find her brother before he reveals the violent secret from their past and does more damage to himself . . . or to someone else.

And here's what I thought:  
I find storms fascinating, and always have.  I'm one of those people who sleep best during a big rainstorm (especially now that we've had our drainage fixed and I don't have to worry about water in the basement).   When I was a kid, I relished storms, all the thunder and lightning -- the not knowing when there would be a flash and a boom.  It was a mixture of excitement and dread.   

And that very mixture saturates this story.  Karena and Charles have a different kind of relationship -- maybe because they're twins, and maybe because they share an awful occurrence from their past.  Whatever the reason, Karena chasing Charles is like Charles chasing a storm;  whatever's in front of you can change direction in a second and leave you scrambling to keep yourself covered.   It's a fascinating way to build a story - a relationship between siblings where the one is as unpredictable and potentially dangerous as a tornado.    There's an underlying feeling of dread that runs through the story --- we wonder if Karena will ever catch up with Charles, and then we wonder if it's a good thing if she finds him.

A tornado is a rotating column of air that is in simultaneous contact with both the earth, and a cloud.  This is a perfect way to see Charles, who at times wavers between his connection with the real world and the world inside his own mind.   Karena seems grounded, herself, but then it seems she is losing herself in her search for her brother.  Even the relationship she begins with a stormchaser (a character that I thought was great ... and admit that I would have fallen for him, too) is threatened by her all-consuming desire to track down her brother.  And to what end?  Once she finds him, what then?

I felt that the characters were skillfully written, and I enjoyed how the author worked in quite a bit of real information about storms, and stormchasing.  Very cool.   At times, I was a bit afraid to keep reading because I was worried for Karena ... but she's compelling, even if she's not always at her best.  Reading this book made me think about one of my favorite songs by Stevie Nicks, called Twisted (which was to be used on the Twister soundtrack).  I've included the link to it on Youtube... not big on the video, but the song's very cool -- I wound up listening to it twice while writing this post.

And here is the author's site, if you'd like to learn more about her.  

First sentences:  Karena Jorge's birthday starts as a quiet affair, but she doesn't mind.  That's the way she likes it.

Thoughts on the cover:
  The ominous-looking sky in front of the two children really ties into the story, and the underlying tension throughout the book.  Very well-matched art and book.  

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review, and I'm really glad I was contacted -- this was a great read.


Jenna Blum said...

Dear Jo (and you know you share the name of the heroine in TWISTER, right? Just sayin'!)--

Thank you so much for this extraordinary review of THE STORMCHASERS. I say "extraordinary" not just because you said nice things about my novel--although this is always gratifying to the writer's ego (& mollifies her sense of anxiety as to whether readers will like her characters and their story!). I also say "extraordinary" because you write so beautifully and lucidly (do you want to write my third book, perchance?) and have put your finger precisely on the book's pulses. A rare thing indeed.

Karena, Charles, Kevin, the Whirlwind Gang, and I are all so grateful!

Happy reading & blogging,

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I can't wait to read this one. Great review.

Meg @ write meg! said...

I've been fascinated with storms since I was a kid, too, and actually wanted to be a stormchaser -- until I figured out how dangerous that really was! Definitely have to add this one to my list.

France said...

"The Stormchasers" really was one of the better books I've read in a while. One sibling dealing with the mental illness of another sibling is not a new plot idea, but the addition of stormchasing to the story gave it a new spin (sorry for the bad pun). I have always wanted to storm chase and grew up in "Tornado Alley" so this aspect of the book is what enticed me to buy it in the first place and Jenna Blum did not disappoint.

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