Book Reviews

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby


Released: May 2019
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 288
Rating: 4/5


Fionla (“Fig”) is a sixth grader with a lot on her plate. Suffering from a psychiatric disorder that leaves him unable to make music anymore, her father is barely able to function on the best of days. No longer selling out large music halls, her dad barely makes ends meet by giving sporadic piano lessons when he’s up for it.

After her father made a few too many embarrassing outbursts at Fig’s school and around the neighborhood, Child Services is closely monitoring them. Fig is desperate to understand her father better so that she can make sure they stay together.

When an art project at school leads her to the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh, the artist’s turbulent life and struggle with mental illness seems to be exactly what Fig has been looking for. Delving deep into the tortured Dutch painter’s life, she tries to learn more about Van Gogh in the hopes that it might help her understand how her father’s tortured mind works.

Hurricane Season is a beautiful exploration into mental illness and presents it in a very accessible and realistic way for both young and adult readers. It also explores sexual orientation in a practical manner that is helpful for young and old alike. Neither of these topics is portrayed as taboo or something to be ashamed of. They are simply just facts of life.

Also, if you don’t know a lot about Van Gogh’s life or about storm season on the eastern seaboard, you’ll certainly learn a lot while reading this. It was all pretty fascinating.

AND CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT AMAZING COVER?! This is one of the most amazing book covers I have ever seen. Kudos to the illustrator!

If you pick this one up, which I highly recommend that you do, bear in mind that this is aimed at middle school aged readers. It’s a short read, but one that has no shortage of emotions. My heart constantly broke for Fig as I was reading this. As if being in sixth grade isn’t hard enough with all the emotional and physical changes that occur at that age (and how horrible other sixth graders can be), she also has this constant fear of being taken away from her father looming over her life.

We never meet her mother and all we learn about her is that she left the day Fig was born. It’s always just been Fig and her dad against the world. When she begins studying Van Gogh and the co-dependent relationship he had with his brother Theo, she is determined to be her dad’s Theo and to figure out how his confusing mind works. It’s devastating how much is on this poor kid’s shoulders.

It does end on a hopeful high note so don’t worry about finishing this and being bereft. It also has left itself open to a sequel, one I would eagerly read if published.


Nicole Melleby has carefully written a moving tale about how mental illness can affect a family. It’s not only a wonderful book, but it’s also a great tool for young readers to learn about mental illness, sexual orientation, and art history. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this for the young readers in my life and plan to do so once Christmas rolls around. And for some of the adults too!


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