Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: Eye of the Storm (Messner)

AUTHOR: Kate Messner  
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Walker Books  
PUBLICATION DATE: March 13, 2012
ISBN: 9780802723130
PAGES: 304
SOURCE: galley from SLJ  
GENRE: dystopia, post-apocalyptic  
GIVE IT TO: upper-elementary and middle school girls who love science
SUMMARY: The year is circa 2050, and environment destruction has caused the development of massive, supercell tornadoes that threaten lives and property every day. Jaden Meggs's father studies storms, and 13-year old Jaden goes to live with him to attend science camp in Oklahoma, inside the heart of tornado alley. Jaden's father has discovered a way to divert the storms from the posh neighborhood he has created, but at what cost is her father keeping his family safe?  

READALIKES: The Compound by S.A. Bodeen; The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen  

MOVIE TIE-IN: the 2004 movie Twister  

  • Overall: 2/5
  • Creativity: 3/5
  • Characters: 2/5
  • Engrossing: 2/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to teens: 3/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5

  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: very mild; one chaste kiss
  • Violence: mild; tornadoes are violent, but no major characters die; dog is badly injured but lives
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: It's not out yet, but I will probably get it for my many fans of Bodeen's The Compound.  

WARNING: The reviews on this site are intended for librarians who need thorough book reviews in order to make informed purchasing decisions. As such, anything below this warning may contain mild spoilers. I try not to give away too much, but I do review the entire book.  

WHAT I LIKED: Eye of the Storm starts out promising. Jaden is a young girl--a very smart girl, bonus!--who goes to live with her dad after he has been studying storm development in Russia for years. He has a new wife and baby daughter, neither of whom Jaden has met before (cue adolescent angst). Jaden attends science camp, and quickly befriends Risha and falls in like with Alex. All this against a backdrop of killer tornadoes and sinister science, and the book sounds like a recipe for success.

Descriptions of the community they live in--where everyone's safety is guaranteed in writing--are really cool and futuristic. Everyone carries a data slate, which seems much like an iPad and phone combined. I love how the world's environment has slowly deteriorated, causing huge storms that threaten everyday life, and I definitely see some parallels with recent news reports that weather has generally become more active in the past several years due to global climate changes.

I liked the heart-pounding moments where Jaden breaks into places she should not be and attempts to figure out what's going on. I enjoyed the action of testing theories of storm dissipation in the Sim Dome, and the drama of characters running for shelter when they get caught out in the storm.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Character development is virtually nonexistent. About the only thing I know about Jaden is that she is really smart and loves science. In fact, that's pretty much all I know about Alex and Risha also. The dad is a caricature of someone obsessed with science; he does little else outside his office and rarely spends any time with his wife and daughters.

The young wife Mirielle is also a caricature--she is young, pretty, a perfect mother to the baby, and always in a cheerful mood (even though her husband ignores her and the baby most of the time). I picture her wearing yellow sundresses and dancing around the kitchen, blissfully oblivious to what is going on around her.
The plot is simple and really only has one focus--to stop the tornadoes. While 300+ pages is more than enough room to develop a couple of subplots, Messner spends more time explaining the science behind tornadoes and meteorology. Some science-minded kids will definitely love that, but for me, it drags down the story and detracts from character and plot development. The romance between Alex and Jaden seems to be almost an afterthought, added in simply to add something else to the linear plot.

And what's with the mom not calling her panicked daughter back? Jaden calls her mother several times and worries needlessly because her mother does not bother to return the call. I am a mom, and if my son called me multiple times (or even just once), begging me to call him back as soon as possible, I would do it immediately. As with the Jaden/Alex romance, it seems this was added in later to provide some sort of badly-needed subplot.

The twist at the end is supposed to be surprising. I am not usually one to predict endings well, but I saw this one coming very early in the story. The real villain seems to exist only to make the father look less like the mastermind behind the whole plot and more like a loving father. Yuck.

THE BOTTOM LINE: While it may help fill a need for fiction about science-minded girls, Eye of the Storm lacks plot and character development, making it a strictly additional purchase.

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