So lately I've been wondering about when to set my novel. I'm leaning towards setting it in 2004, the summer before the senior year of the class of 2005. I sorta want some discussion to arise about Green Day's American Idiot album. This would be, of course, an alternative to the ambiguous "now" that many novels seem to float in, especially YA novels. I understand that books need to seem current, but my generation lived history too. Setting a novel seven years in the past lends that feel without dipping into historic research because the author is reminiscing. It's a cozy feeling.
Hurricane, by Jenna-Lynne Duncan, does just that. This novel, set partly in New Orleans, begins in the late summer of 2005, not long before Hurricane Katrina was to strike the Gulf Coast and bring devastation to the area. Yes, it's a paranormal teen romance, but it lacks the moodiness that tends to shadow that genre.
I won't lie to you. I really enjoyed Hurricane. The main character was a normal girl, if fictional characters can be. Sure, she's described as blond and blue-eyed, but unlike other books she doesn't harp on it and talk continuously about her looks. It's a visual reference. The description gives you a solid view of the character and grounds you in the novel so that the real storytelling can begin.
Like many books in the YA genre, it's written in a first-person perspective. I'm not always a fan of the technique, because it can become a crutch for some. But Hurricane had the feel of a friend telling you a cool story. The dates and locations at the beginning of each chapter give the novel a journalish feel, and an abruptly ending paragraph at the end of the epilogue seems indicate that the lead, a writer herself, is indeed journaling her experiences along the way.
As a teen romance, there are, of course, the required hot guys. Though obviously handsome, the two young men aren't described constantly. Duncan instead prefers to focus on their personalities and relationships to the main character. Sarcasm, humor, and snark are comfortable and welcome in this novel's dialogue, and the two boys, Hayden and Luke, are presented as somewhat preppy (in a Southern way) and probably, if they were real, pretty nice guys. A sudden self-sacrificial move by Adriana had me thinking too much of Twilight, but it did prompt me to wonder what I'd do in such a situation.* But even that doesn't detract from Ana's strength as a character. She's likeable enough that the moment comes as more of a brief annoyance, a low note in an otherwise good book.. She's not perfect, and she makes a bad decision. It's real. Ish.
The characters are terribly stock, but the future mom-in-law is a lot like Esme Cullen, and probably no like any real in-law at all.There's a conflict between Adriana and her dad that is solved conveniently at the end by an arrangement that I don't think any father anywhere would be cool with, at all. There is one time when Adriana describes her own hair color swinging around, as in "my blonde hair swished behind me as I ran" or something like that. You'll find out later why stuff like that is a pet peeve of mine.
The late-summer Southern setting is rough and spooky and lends some beauty to the atmosphere of the novel. The descriptions of a post-Katrina New Orleans chill the bones as Duncan so aptly describes a horror more terrifying than any ghosts in the book. But through it all, the tone never loses hope, and the story ties off neatly in the final chapter over a plate of beignets at the Cafe du Monde.
I'd recommend this novel to anyone who wants something that entertains. It doesn't ask much of the reader. The few unlikelihoods, (such as minors moving in with other minors with no problem) that do pop up are annoying, but it really is a well-polished YA novel. And if I'm not mistaken, at least part of the proceeds from this novel are donated to Katrina victims. So go ahead, indulge and give back at the same time.
*I would actually have a gun.**
**Heck, if I were a superhero, I'd still have a gun. Super-power stunting losses of confidence would totally be nullified with a 9mm. Just sayin'.