Book Review: Don’t Call Me a Hurricane by Ellen Hagan
An affecting and resonant YA novel in verse that explores family, community, the changing ocean tides, and what it means to fall in love with someone who sees the world in a different way.
It’s been five years since a hurricane ravaged Eliza Marino’s life and home in her quiet town on the Jersey shore. Now a senior in high school, Eliza is passionate about fighting climate change-starting with saving Clam Cove Reserve, an area of marshland that is scheduled to be turned into buildable lots. Protecting the island helps Eliza deal with her lingering trauma from the storm, but she still can’t shake the fear that something will come along and wash out her life once again.
When Eliza meets Milo Harris at a party, she tries to hate him. Milo is one of the rich tourists who flock to the island every summer. But after Eliza reluctantly agrees to give Milo surfing lessons, she can’t help falling for him. Still, Eliza’s not sure if she’s ready to risk letting an outsider into the life she’s rebuilt. Especially once she discovers that Milo is keeping a devastating secret.
Told in stunning verse, Don’t Call Me a Hurricane is a love story for the people and places we come from, and a journey to preserve what we love most about home.
I have long enjoyed novels in verse, but went on a deep-dive with them for a School Library Journal article earlier this year (Verse Novelists Forge a Unique Connection with Young Readers) and now like them more than ever. I am a fan of Hagan’s earlier novels and found this one as thoughtful, moving, and interesting as all her others.
Our main character, Eliza, is determined to help save her marshlands in her community. She loves her home and doesn’t want to see it overrun by seasonal tourists who are able to forever alter the landscape of a place she holds so dear. And while she’s so connected to and protective of the water around her, it’s water that has also traumatized her. Five years ago, a hurricane ripped through her home, devastating her town and nearly making her lose a member of her family. But still, she surfs, works as a lifeguard, and doesn’t want to see anything happen to the island.
Eliza is such strong character. She’s principled, intelligent, an activist, and deeply engaged in her community. She has also now fallen for a boy who turns out to be harboring a big secret, one that puts him firmly on the side of things she opposes. Her relationship with the island and its changes and tourists has always been complicated (her mother’s business likely relies on their patronage to survive and her father works construction on the island, even potentially working for projects that Eliza finds unacceptable). But she’s thoughtful about it all, and her flashbacks to the hurricane show her complex feelings and the fear and anxiety she has worked through (and continues to work through). She wants the island to stay hers, to stay theirs. She and other young climate activists work to educate others and to halt actions they find detrimental to the island. She is hopeful and looks to build a community that both survives and thrives. I’m glad to see more books addressing climate change and eco anxiety, to see more books showing teenagers as engaged in their communities, as activists. The beautiful verse adeptly captures the passion Eliza feels. A great read that I hope will send readers looking for Hagan’s other books if this is their first introduction to her.
Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 07/19/2022
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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