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Friday, March 22, 2019

7th MMGM: Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby (review & interview)

Welcome to Day 17 of the 7th Annual March MG Madness! Click here to see the full schedule and links to other days.

Hurricane Season 
By Nicole Melleby 
May 7, 2019 
Algonquin Young Readers 

This debut novel—about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about growing up and coming out—will make its way straight into your heart. 

Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door. 

Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her. 

Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power. 

It’s been just Fig and her dad since the day she was born and Fig knows how to take care of her pianist father...but lately it’s been getting harder and harder to deal with his episodes brought on by mental illness. Hoping to understand the artist part of her dad, Fig takes an art class and takes a particular interest in Vincent Van Gogh. Then a friendly new neighbor moves in and seems to be able to help her dad in ways Fig doesn’t understand. Add in two unexpected crushes, fears of Social Services, and the pains of growing up, and Fig’s life starts to feel like a hurricane. 

Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a deeply felt emotional stunner! With depth, sensitivity, and excellent storytelling, Melleby crafts a powerful story about mental illness, lgbtq issues, family, friendship, and art in all of its forms. 

With an honest, earnest voice, Hurricane Season compellingly unfolds, allowing readers an immediate and intimate connection with Fig. And Fig, with her endearing personality, keen observations, and understandable reactions, feels so refreshingly real and captivating. Melleby tackles some heavy and relevant topics and does so with care. The author’s portrayal of mental illness, coming out, and the weight of love is profoundly authentic. From Fig’s crush on the teenage librarian, her awkward situation with her bff, and her complex relationship with her father, young readers will relate to the big worries Fig faces and her messy journey.  

Hurricane Season is a wonderfully moving and thought-provoking story that will stay with readers for a long time. 

Q1. What three words best describe your book Hurricane Season? 

hopeful, heart-warming, genuine 

Q2. Grab a copy of Hurricane Season and answer the following 
Favorite chapter? Chapter 8—The Starry Night 

Favorite page? 170 

Favorite setting? The Keansburg boardwalk during the hurricane  

Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: And then, as they turned a corner, she saw it, those big black letters against white: MoMA.  Fig held her breath.  “You ready?” her dad asked.  

Q3. What inspired Hurricane Season? How did the story come to be? 

I knew going in that I wanted to explore the relationship between a father and daughter, but I didn’t have any of the other pieces at first. The story came to me on a trip to London. I was in the National Gallery looking at all the works of art, and I stumbled upon the Vincent Van Gogh section. There was a tour guide giving a talk about Van Gogh, in particular his struggle with mental illness, and I was so moved by how relatable this artist from over a hundred years ago sounded that I started to do my own reading and research. From that, HURRICANE SEASON was born.  

Q4. Tell us a bit about your character Fig. What makes her special? What do you love about her? 

Fig is a character who loves her father more than anything, and struggles to understand him, in the face of his bipolar disorder. She carries the weight of everything on her shoulders—which is too much responsibility for a girl of eleven. She takes care of her dad and herself, and she has trouble accepting help, out of fear. I love and admire her strength and bravery, and that even though her dad has bad days and her world seems to be crumbling down around her, Fig continuously understands that her father’s mental illness is not his fault.  

Q5. What do you love about writing and reading middle-grade lit? 

The audience. I cannot wait to get to listen to middle grade readers and hear what they want and need and love. I got to write the book I wish I had, that I maybe needed, and I hope it gets into the hands of MG readers who maybe feel the same. wrote this book hoping for readers to take away that they're not alone, that they're seen, that mental illness is hard but manageable, and that love may have its limits, but help comes in all shapes and sizes.  

Q6. What is your all-time favorite middle-grade book? 

HOLES by Louis Sachar. I’m pretty sure Kissin’ Kate Barlow was my first fictional crush!  

Q7. Fill in the blanks: 
I’m really awesome at Yahtzee. Seriously, I’m undefeated 

I’m really embarrassed to admit I was banned from a safari for an incident with an ostrich 

The last great book I read was THE NIGHT DIARY by Veera Hirandandani  

Q8. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Hurricane Season what would it look 
and taste like? What would you call it? 

Oh, it would absolutely be a fig flavored cupcake! And it would be decorated like the swirly Van Gogh inspired sky on my book cover—illustrated by David Litchfield (who did a wonderful job!) I would call it Hurricane Fig!  

Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea. 

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