Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Review: Hurricane Song

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi. (Grades 9+)

The wind and rain had beat down on that dome like it was a giant drum. But now, people were pounding at each other. There was a buzzing, and I guess the generators tried to kick back in. The rings of light circling the stadium started to glow a little. They reminded me of halos over the heads of angels. Then I heard a baby cry with a shriek that nearly stopped my heart cold. And for the life of me, I didn't know if that baby was being born or dying.

Miles knew that moving to New Orleans to live with his dad would be no picnic. His dad's a jazz musician and chose his gigs over his son any day. But when Miles's mom gets remarried, moving south and being ignored by his father was the lesser of two evils. When news of Hurricane Katrina comes through, Miles and his dad and uncle try to leave the city, but with a busted car they've got no choice but to join the huddled masses at the Superdome. And what happens there will haunt Miles for the rest of his life.

Hurricane Songs is a wild ride of a book and it sweeps the reader along for the entire stormy trip. What happened in the Superdome was not pretty and Mr. Volponi does not spare the reader from the horrors. As I was reading, I got to the part where the lights go out for the first time and I was terrified. And that's when I realized what a great book it was. I totally felt like I was in the Superdome with all the Katrina evacuees. That's a sign of a great book, but it's also pretty disturbing considering the subject matter.

My one complaint is a really dorky one. I wish there had been some kind of author's note explaining how Mr. Volponi researched it. Absolutely no offense is meant, but Volponi is a white guy from New York... how would he know anything about what went on in the Superdome? Luckily, you can find out how he researched on his website, so make sure you check that out.

The book doesn't shy away from, well, anything. It's a powerful story of a really dark time. It examines issues of race and class and would make for a great book discussion.

Read more reviews at Becky's Book Reviews (I agree with her comments about the ending... beware of spoilers!), Practically Paradise, and Chasing Ray.