Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Hurricane Girls

Holt, Kimberly Willis. Hurricane Girls
August 29, 2023 by Christy Ottaviano Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In 2018, we meet three classmates who were all born around the time of Hurricane Katrina, in the New Orleans area. Now in middle school, they are all facing challenges of their own. Greer, a talented runner, feels responsible for the accident that has consigned her younger sister Darby to a wheelchair and has stopped running. Joya Mia's family struggles financially, but she makes the best of things. Kiki, whose father has left her mother after installing a pool at their small house, wants to encourage her friend to get back to her sport, so signs the three girls up for a relay triathlon. Kiki doesn't swim, and is sometimes uncomfortable with her weight, although she tries to embrace it. She signs up for lessons at the local Y, although her mother is concerned that she won't stick with it. Greer finds it hard to get back to running; even her favorite shoes no longer fit, and she's worried that her parents are going to get a divorce. They do finally put her into therapy, and it helps that she can talk to Dr. Lake. Joya Mia is enjoying training on the rusty old bike that she shares with the rest of the family, but when she is approached by a modeling agent, she sees modeling as a way to help her family financially, and enjoys being able to buy things she needs. As the summer rolls on, Kiki babysits and also connects with a slightly older swim instructor, Ivan, whom she thinks it cute. Greer works at her father's movie theater, and Joya Mia finds that sometimes  modeling can be boring. At one point, Kiki gives up on the idea of the triathlon, but after visiting with her father, decides that she doesn't want to be like him and give up. The three girls support each other, but will they be able to win the race?
Strengths: I remember Hurrican Katrina very vividly, and it's hard to belive that it's been 18 years! Holt likes to catch us up with her characters years later, (as she did with When Zachary Beaver Came to Town), so it makes perfect sense for her to write a book that can be read after the many middle grade stories about the hurricane Herlong's Buddy.Patrick's Finding SomeplacePhilbrick's Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of KatrinaSmith's Another Kind of Hurricane, and Woods'Saint Louis Armstrong Beach). This gives some perspective to the progress made in resuming life in New Orleans. The details about training are just enough, and I liked that the girls had fairly different lives. I especially liked that the girls didn't really fight with each other, but were able to work out their differences. I particuarly liked Kiki's grandmother, although reading about her cooking made me hungry! 
Weaknesses: There were some points in the story where I thought this might be the second book in the series, but it wasn't. I felt like I was missing the beginning of the girls' friendship, somehow. 
What I really think: I like the idea of a relay triathlon, and the one outlined in the book is similar to some of the TRY-athlons I have seen for young athletes in my area. The challenges the girls face are realistic, and while it takes some effort to overcome them, they do a great job. This is a pleasantly upbeat book that carefully captures current thought about things like body image, economic challenges, and overcoming trauma. 

Ms. Yingling

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