TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
Author Terry Trueman is well known in summer reading circles for "Stuck in Neutral," his gripping tale of a boy in a vegetative state. In "Hurricane," he explores the devastation wrought by 1998's Hurricane Mitch by focusing on one 13 year old boy in one tiny pueblo (or town) in Honduras. When we first encounter Jose, he is helping his older brother Victor tear down an outdoor barbecue. Jose, as a typical young teen, soon abandons the hard work to play soccer in the main road with his friends, while the good-natured Victor completes the task. It's a lovely opening scene, as we readily discover that Jose has a normal life with friends, caring neighbors, loving family, and even a loyal dog. This is important because (a) it helps us immediately identify with Jose, and (b) since the novel is set in Honduras, a country possibly unknown to younger readers, it instantly makes the story seem connected to our own lives.
Flash forward six months, and Category Five storm Hurricane Mitch is bearing down on Jose's pueblo of La Rupa. While the rain is pounding and the winds are battering his small house, Jose, his mom, and three siblings huddle together under tarps. Even as the storm slowly passes, they become increasingly worried by the absence of Jose's dad and two older siblings (including Victor), who were traveling when the storm hit. Jose is also upset because his beloved dog, Berti, has gone missing. Just as the storm seems to have subsided, Jose hears a violent, ear-shattering roar, which turns out to be a mudslide. As the pueblo endures a torrent of mud from a nearby deforested mountainside, most of La Rupa's houses are destroyed. Worse, many residents are instantly killed and what little remains of the town lies completely buried in mud. By sheer luck, Jose's house is spared, and it soon becomes a makeshift shelter for his few surviving neighbors.
In the days that follow, Jose, scared yet determined, has to grow up quickly and assume the responsibilities of his father and older brother. This means rescuing trapped people; unearthing dead neighbors; literally scraping through mud for stores of food; searching for medical care for his desperately ill little brother, Juan; and, finally, making a lonely, dangerous trip along mud-buried roads to locate his missing family members. Throughout his journey, Jose is believably brave and frightened at the same time, as any young boy would be.
In typical Trueman style, the impact of this novel far outweighs its slim size. While it's a quick read, "Hurricane" is the type of story that will linger with you long afterward. I'll add that it's also great to find a novel set outside the United States that is still so accessible for young American teens. Indeed, I'm sure most middle school readers will easily identify with Jose and his struggle to protect his family in the face of devastating conditions. "Hurricane" is a powerful and inspiring story, and I recommend it for all middle school readers.