Title: The Tornado |Author: Jake Burt |Publisher: Feiwel Friends |Genre: Middlegrade |256 pages
After reading “Greetings from Witness Protection!” by Jake Burt, I was so in awe and love with his writing that I had to pick up more of his books. My first choice was this one – The Tornado.
Bell Kirby is an expert at systems, whether he’s designing the world’s most elaborate habitat for his pet chinchilla, re-creating Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest inventions in his garage, or avoiding Parker Hellickson, the most diabolical bully Village Green Elementary has ever seen. Since third grade, Parker has tormented Bell, who’s spent two long years devising a finely tuned system that keeps him out of Parker’s way. Sure, it means that Bell can’t get a drink when he wants to, can’t play with his best friend on the playground, and can’t tell his parents about his day, but at least he’s safe. Until Daelynn Gower touches down in his classroom like a tornado. Bell’s not sure why the new girl, with her rainbow hair, wild clothes, and strange habits, is drawn to him, but he knows one thing–she means trouble. It’s bad enough that she disrupts Bell’s secret system, but when Daelynn becomes the bully’s new target, Bell is forced to make an impossible decision: Finally stand up to Parker. . . Or join him.
Once again I was amazed by how real Jake Burt makes his young protagonists. I guess being a teacher and being around kids that age makes it helluva lot easier to write relatable characters.
I love the story this book tells. It’s all about personal growth and problem solving and somehow also sonder – the idea that every person has his own personal story and background and intricate life which they are constantly living whichout you being really aware of it.
Bell is a very talented engineer for his age and loves systems and riddles and building stuff. He spends his days creating and following and elaborate system to avoid the school bully who is also the principle’s son. Bell is a well meaning and smart but also cowardly boy. He doesn’t have many friends and is trying to make his own life as bearable as possible since there seems to be no solution to his problem. I really found his actions so relatable. While I know many readers would have loved to see Bell to just stand up to his bully, to be strong and be certain of himself, not let himself be pushed around and to see his bully relent, I found it much more fascinating that Bell tried to think his way out of his problem the way a elementary school kid would. The results are of course rather suboptimal.
Enter Daelynn, a new student at the Village Green Elementary who is brilliant and bubbly and colourful and happy who quickly become the bully’s new target. I liked Daelynn who seemed so happy and friendly and a little bit naive to me who also has her own problems before the whole bullying starts to get to her.
There was not much to see of her insides but you could kinda watch her from afar which I found very interesting. You learned just as much about her as she was sharing with Bell and what Bell observed about her which made her character all the more fascinating to watch and falter and grow.
This book is very character driven and I loved it for that reason. Even more so that – like I said before – the characters act in such a way you would expect but not necessarily want from kids that age. You wish more for them but of course these characters have their own boundaries, their own feelings and fears. Personal growth is not easy. Especially not for somebody so young.
I absolultly adore Jake Burt’s writing and I hope there are many more books of his to come. This is a wonderful standalone that I would whole-heartedly recommend.