Jaden loves living in Vermont with her mom, a scientist who studies frogs, but when her mother needs to spend the summer in Costa Rica, she's excited to spend the summer with her father, stepmother and baby half sister in Placid Meadows, Oklamhoma. This is a community that her father's company, StormSafe, has created in a world that is constantly rocked by tornadoes and hurricanes. At a vague point in the future, the weather has become so bad that children no longer are allowed to ride their bikes, all houses have safe areas, and crops are predominately "DN-ature"; hybrids produced to be grown more quickly and uniformly. Jaden gets accepted into a summer meteorological program that StormSafe runs for children, and meets Risha, Alex and Tomas, who are all interested in figuring out how storms work as well. For Alex, it's very personal, because his family runs a farm that is quite battered by the storms, but which they do not want to sell to StormSafe. When Jaden is trying to figure out how to run her storm simulations, she runs across information that leads her to believe her father might not have the best interests of everyone at heart. Can Jaden and her friends safe Alex's farm, or will the increasingly bad storms wipe out everything they love, even Placid Meadows?
Strengths: Wow. Of course, I loved The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. And Sugar and Ice was fantastic. So I thought "Hmmm. Can Messner really pull off science fiction?" Boy, howdy, can she ever. I don't want to give away the plot, so couldn't really describe the entire last half of the book, but the list of brilliant touches in this is lengthy. The exact date when this takes place is vague, although we do have Jaden's grandfather killed right after 9/11. The every day technology that Messner introduces is brilliant. Data Slates that everyone carries, the genetically modified food-- and every time I would come across one, I would think "Hmmm. This could happen, and soon!" The names aren't overly goofy-- brilliant. The fact that several important characters turn out to be rather evil was a marvelous touch, and there was even some light romance. The suspense and action at the end were fantastic. While the main character is a girl, I see this being equally popular with the boys. Ms. Messner, you have hit this one right out of the park! If you want to quit teaching now and devote yourself to writing full time, you have my full support!
Weaknesses: Messner deserves better covers. And I wasn't wild about the name Jaden for a girl, even though it has a good, futuristic quality to it.