SUMMARY: Set over one year from 1982-1983 and told entirely in letters between life-long besties Scott Agee and Cath Osteen. Cath has just started college at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, and Scott has stayed in their Maryland hometown to work in his father's clothing store.
WHAT I LIKED: So many 1980s pop-culture references! I was only seven years old in 1982 and well-sheltered from pop culture since we didn't have a TV and my parents listened to talk radio and 1960s country music. Some of the music references were lost on me, as they will be on most of the target audience of this book. You do not need to know the references to understand the story, but it's cool when you do know them!
Scott and Cath are both likeable, real characters. Their letters feel real, as does their friendship. And it is a friendship, without romance or even a hint of romance until right at the very end.
It's relatively clean. Yep, a book featuring college-age students who take school seriously but still have fun. There are a few references to drinking at parties and some profanity, but overall, it's pretty clean considering some of the other New Adult titles I've read. Scott and Cath are normal college kids dealing with normal problems. They have nice, loving families that deal with realistic problems.
Every time I see a class in the library, I start with my "Mrs. Collazo is currently reading..." feature. I give a short summary of the book and talk about how it's going and whether or not I'm enjoying it. When I booktalked this book last week, I really enjoyed explaining that back in 1982, we didn't have email or texting or FaceBook to keep up with friends when they moved away. Maintaining long-distance relationships was much more difficult in 1982 than it is in 2016. I live in China now, but through FaceBook, I know what's going on with my family and friends in the USA. I see photos of my nieces and nephews instantly, and I can send messages and comments instantly as well. We also have live chats and Skype, and I don't miss my family the same way I would have if it were still 1982. Letter-writing is a lost art that many of today's youth haven't experienced. That's not the worst thing in the world--I would not trade today's communication tools for snail-mail letters--but I do think it's a little sad anyway.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: It's a little boring. This is a slice-of-life story told entirely through mailed letters. It's not meant to be action-packed, and it does have plenty of "nothing really happening today." I love how the book feels so real, but at the same time, some days are just as boring as they are in real life.
I mentioned above how I liked the letter format as a throwback to a lost art. But I also disliked the letters because all the events that occurred had already happened by the time the letters were written. I just felt less connected to the story's events. There's really not a lot of page-turning suspense here.
I do think many students (Realists, Romantics) will love this story for the same things I didn't love. I am an Escapist, and as an Escapist, I love action. I love a story so suspenseful that I am biting my stubby nails in anticipation. I love being so sucked into the story that no one can get my attention. This isn't that story, but it's well-written in its simplicity and realism. It's a great choice for Realists and Romantics.
I've seen We Are Still Tornadoes listed as a romance, but the romance happens suddenly in only the last few pages. Of course, the romance is there all along, but this is primarily a story of true friendship.
THEMES: friendship, growing up, family, grief
THE BOTTOM LINE: We Are Still Tornadoes is well-written and about as true-to-life as any YA book I've read. It will work best for readers who love realistic, relationship-driven stories. Readers who love action and suspense may be disappointed.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. I do have readers who will love it.
- Overall: 4/5
- Creativity: 4/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 3/5
- Writing: 4/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: medium; there's not a lot of profanity, but the F-word does come up a few times
- Sexuality: mild; a few references to "making out" and past kisses
- Violence: none
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; references to drinking at college parties; no drugs or smoking mentioned at all