By: Jenna Blum
Published By: Penguin
Release Date: April 26, 2011 (Paperback); Originally published 2010
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Source: Provided by Goldberg McDuffie Communications
When I was approached about reading this novel I hesitated. I have never been particularly interested in the weather or bi-polar disorder. Furthermore, these topics seemed like a massive undertaking to merge into one cohesive novel. However, I am really trying this year to read things outside of my normal reading comfort zone and broaden my horizons with new genres and authors. Because Goldberg McDuffie has never lead me astray before in the books they have asked me to read - I decided to take a leap of faith with this one. I couldn't have been more pleased with the result.
The Stormchasers follows the difficult history of twins, Charles and Karena. As children, the two were close and often Karena was the only one who could reason with Charles as his dark moods descended. As the twins get older, Charles moods become more erratic and dangerous. He often resorts to using hateful words - slinging them like venom at those he loves the most - and physical strength to get his way. The one thing that soothes Charles more than anything else are the massive storms that roll through southern Minnesota and its neighboring states. Throughout the book, the behavior and structure of the storms becomes a symbol for Charles. At times, he is calm and relaxed, but within moments things can take a very nasty turn.
This book also has so many complex layers; it is about far more than just storms and bi-polar disorder. The book also takes a hard look at buried secrets and the issue of trust in relationships. Also, many times in literature, being a twin is painted as this beautiful picture where you're other half is your best friend and support system. It was interesting for me to see a different picture painted in this book. As much as Karena loves her brother, he drains her and complicates her life at every turn. She has to learn to balance her love for him with the need to be able to live her life without constantly worrying that one of his episodes will result in her losing everything.
I also enjoyed the way the book was structured. The beginning is set in the present day as Karena is frantically looking for Charles after not being able to locate him for twenty years. She wants to take care of him and make sure he is safe. After receiving a call from a hospital in Kansas, Karena takes off on a storm chasing adventure in the hopes that she will find someone who can show her the way to her twin. The trip proves to be more enlightening than she could ever imagine as Karena finds herself enamored with the storms and her attentive guide, Kevin.
The second section of the book takes the reader back to 1988 on the day of Charles and Karena's 18th birthday. It is on this day that their lives will be altered forever and part of why the two go their separate ways for so long. This section of the book was my favorite. Life is full of choices and often these choices lead us to do things and keep secrets when we know that we are in the wrong. I have always felt that in certain situations I would always do the "right" thing, but this portion of the novel made me think about how others might be lead down a different path.
The last section of the book brought the past into the present as Karena and Charles are still dealing with the incident from the evening of their 18th birthday. The storms in their lives have reached the point of the most destruction, but can they calm the winds and rain to salvage something good for themselves? Can they save their relationship after all the hurt and betrayals?
Jenna Blum is an amazing writer who truly took me into worlds I have never been to before and made me care about them. She also brought forward two characters that will stick with me for quite some time, but they weren't perfect. I appreciated that. The beauty of Karena and Charles is in their flaws - the messy parts they hide from view. Beauty comes from chaos. This novel is written like a storm - it grasps you and refuses to let go until all the energy has been seeped into the very last period. I look forward to reading other works by Jenna Blum in the future.
One Last Gripe: I wanted to know more about the Motorcycle Guy. Who was he? Why was he out in that storm?
My Favorite Thing About This Book: Karena's redemption
First Sentence: Karena Jorge's birthday starts as a quiet affair, but she doesn't mind.
Favorite Character: Kevin
Least Favorite Character: At times it was Charles and at times it was Karena - I did like both characters so these were only fleeting moments
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.