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Review: Hurrican Child

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Hurricane Child

by Kheryn Callender

Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.

Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book has been on my TBR list for ages. So when I was approved to read the eARC for it, I was insanely excited. Though it took me a while to get to this book, it lived up to the hype.

 

Caroline has been seeing people that aren’t there since she nearly drowned as a child. Her mother has disappeared, she’s bullied at school, and has no friends. When Kalinda comes to town, things change. The girls become friends, Caroline falls in love with the other girl, though Kalinda doesn’t feel the same way or so it seems. They are determined to find Caroline’s mother, even if she’s been taken to the spirit relam.

 

(Heads up, the next part contains spoilers that are important to explaining parts of the book)

 

This story deals with a lot of tough issues from racism, to homophobia, to mental illness. All the while seen from the eyes of a girl who is the victim to it all. Caroline has dark skin. She’s treated badly because of it. Caroline and Kalinda see a gay couple and Kalinda starts saying horrible things about them. Caroline, scared, agrees with her. But in the following days after seeing that such a thing is possible, she realizes that she feels that way about Kalinda, which she ridiculed for by other students, a teacher, and even Kalinda (for a short period of time while the other girl comes to terms that she actually feels the same way). This is all done in a good and honestly realistic way. Sadly, there are still places where this stuff happens and this book brings this to the forefront without actually making it homophobic or racist itself, by saying that isn’t okay, that people should love and be free to be themselves. It’s handled in a way that a lot of books sadly can’t seem to grasp lately. As for mental illness, we learn that Caroline’s mother suffers from depression and Caroline herself seems to as well, at a point where Caroline tries to kill herself after realizing her mother had done the same and was living on the island but hadn’t wanted contact with her due to the fact she was scared of being trigged into falling into her depression again.

This book more than anything is about growing up. We watch Caroline, a stubborn girl grow up before us in this short period of time. Caroline learns that sometimes things happen to be people that they can’t control. She learns to forgive her mother. She’s able to grow to accept that she has a step-sister and a half-sister and she no longer hates them. She’s all in all grow in a way that’s amazing and healthy.

The things I would have changed: Maybe a bit more supernatural? Caroline believes it must be out of her mother’s control not being there with her. So, she has to have been taken by the spirits. She’s able to see them after all, and so can Kalinda, as she later finds out. Kalinda seems to know a lot about spirits, but we never find out why. To me, there should be a little more to this to really account for this. Just enough to make it fit just a bit better into the story instead of how it feels slightly not fluid with this story. After all, the supernatural is part of cultures and are part of beliefs. I loved the supernatural part, it just needed maybe a few more scenes to make it feel less clunky, even if the point was to prove that not all spirits are bad and that sometimes there are real world problems that occur.

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Read Women

(Review) Where The Watermelons Grow

Where the Watermelons Grow

by Cindy Baldwin

Twelve-year-old Della Kelly has lived her whole life in Maryville, North Carolina. She knows how to pick the softest butter beans and sweetest watermelons on her daddy’s farm. She knows ways to keep her spitfire baby sister out of trouble (most of the time). She knows everyone in Maryville, from her best friend Arden to kind newcomer Miss Lorena to the mysterious Bee Lady.
And Della knows what to do when the sickness that landed her mama in the hospital four years ago spirals out of control again, and Mama starts hearing people who aren’t there, scrubbing the kitchen floor until her hands are raw, and waking up at night to cut the black seeds from all the watermelons in the house. With Daddy struggling to save the farm from a record-breaking drought, Della decides it’s up to her to heal Mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville for generations.
She doesn’t want to hear the Bee Lady’s truth: that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain than with healing Della’s own heart. But as the sweltering summer stretches on, Della must learn—with the help of her family and friends, plus a fingerful of watermelon honey—that love means accepting her mama just as she is.

I’ve read a lot of good books lately and a lot of bad, leaving me in such a reading slump that I picked up about ten books, putting each back down before even getting to 50%. When a friend of mine heard this, they suggested “Where the Watermelons Grow”, which I was lucky enough to have received an ARC for earlier this year. And I’m so thankful I had. This book is an amazing read that faces the reality of living with someone with a mental illness and more, so the ones not talked about in popular media.

 

This book follows Della, the oldest of two girls in a family living on a farm, struggling to make ends meet due to a drought and a host of other issues. One night, Della walks into the kitchen to find her mother carving up a watermelon, saying she didn’t want her or her little sister to swallow the seeds and that it would make them sick. This is the hint of what is coming. You see, her mother had schizophrenia, an illness she had suffered from since Della was born and who often blames herself for having ‘triggered’ the illness. We follow Della as she learns to accept her mother’s illness and that there was no magical fix for it.

 

This book is basically the book all of us who suffer from the less popular mental illnesses such as anxiety and clinical depression. It talks about mental illness in a smart and honest way. Della becomes obsessed with the idea that the magic bee honey in town can fix her mother, when she finds out that it can’t, she then searches for ways she can fix it, having blamed herself for the illness in the first place. This book is honest and heartfelt. I struggled to put this book down for days, even reading it in the last few minutes before I went into surgery yesterday.

 

The writing in this book is lovely. The characters even more lovely. As Della learns that not all families are perfect as those seen on TV, that there’s such thing as a found family, and that nothing is ever what it seems, we go through the ride and steps with her. Della is at the age where she wants to believe in magic honey and that the world can be easily fixed. When none of it goes as planned, she tries harder and harder to make these things happen.

 

My all-time favorite thing about this book is the how it talked about mental illness. While people like to pretend that things like honey and nature can cure mental illness (from those who don’t have it), this book puts an end to this idea right away. There is no magic. Just medicine and professional help. It’s a hard we all face either due to a loved one with it or ourselves. There is no magic cure, no matter how hard we might wish.

 

The portrayal of mental illness struck home. I found it done well and in an order that actually makes sense. There are triggers, there are moments of believed clarity, of moments of sharp downturns and a need for control. This book doesn’t pretend otherwise. And the writing makes it clear, there is no magic cure, period. The honey only works as ‘magic’ because it helped people find strength and hope within it. As nice as a magic story is, there’s more to it. Always.

 

I highly, highly recommend this book. It’s a quick read that will keep you reading no matter what.