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The Hurricane Paperback – May 9, 2011
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Daniel Stillman, 17, feels like an outcast in high school. He doesn’t fit in with any of the “cliques": the jocks, the preps, the hipsters, the gamers…. He thinks he must be just too dull - he dresses in normal clothes, he lacks confidence with girls, and doesn’t even have a smartphone like everyone else. The other kids scorn him as a “rando, a creeper, a sketch.”
Then Hurricane Anna hits, with the eye right over Beaufort. Daniel and his family (mom, stepdad Carlton, and younger sister Zola) take refuge in the bathroom in the center of the house. Trees come down everywhere, and they end up with a big hole in their house. Daniel’s estranged dad shows up with a chainsaw, and they and the other neighbors set about the business of cleaning up and rebuilding.
With the power out for a week, suddenly people are forced to interact with one another rather than with their digital devices, and Daniel’s family gets to know each other and their neighbors really for the first time. Daniel meets a nice, smart girl only four houses away, ironically named Anna, who has been home-schooled, precisely to avoid the kind of social pressures that have tormented Daniel.
Evaluation: This is a very sweet and quiet story, with a sort of delayed impact, much as one might experience from being in the eye of a storm. Daniel has an appealing, self-deprecating sense of humor. Howey is adept at conveying the different fears and insecurities members of his family feel both before and during the storm. The family dynamics are well done, and Howey never sugarcoats the family’s relationship with either the Stepdad or the Dad.
I thought the blurbs about the plot misrepresented it. I found it to be a good coming of age story, not really a parable about digital overload.
At first, because I hadn't been grabbed by the story, I was noticing the simplicity of the writing. After finishing a Stephen King novel (REVIVAL) before starting this one, I missed the masterful command of language that I believe King has. There was a lack of elegance and beauty in the words and phrases used to convey the story. I started to wonder if, because of the great plots of other Howey offerings, I'd missed this about his writing. And I still don't know, because when the story grabbed me, it grabbed me, and if that lack of elegance was still there, I didn't notice it. (I suspect it was, and I just was beyond paying attention to it.)
For me, the mark of a really good story is that I want to know what happens to these characters down the road. Howey made me care about them, and that is a success in my book.
I only gave it 4 stars because of the way the community worked after the storm. I give it 5 stars because Mr. Howley was clearly present for the nasties that visited us a few years back to have gotten the fear of the storm going overhead. His images of the eye were spot on. I did like how lost everyone was after with no teck- very true. But come on, people would kill you to get their hands on a gallon of gas let alone a whole chain saw with oil. Heck, I saw a fist fight break out over the last poptart in Wilma. People are just not that cooperative after a storm, look at NY, but maybe I'm wrong there is a guy going up what 30+ flights of stairs to bring a couple some water.
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