Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cyclone by Doreen Cronin

Nora couldn’t wait to be tall enough to ride the Coney Island Cyclone, and now, at age 12, she is about to achieve her dream. It wasn’t easy talking her cousin Riley, 13, into going on the Cyclone with her, but Nora finally managed to do it, not really hearing Riley’s protestations and brushing aside her clearly apparent fear. And that ride was everything Nora dreamt it would be, right up until she and Riley were walking away and Riley collapsed on the sidewalk.

Rushed to a nearby hospital, Riley is treated for a stroke caused by an undiagnosed heart condition. Nora is riddled with guilt, convinced that she was the cause of Riley’s stroke with the ride on the Cyclone. After all, she did finally have to resort to blackmail to convince her cousin to get on the ride. Luckily, Riley is young and got to the hospital quickly, so her prognosis is somewhat hopeful that she will recover her speech and use of her paralyzed right arm and leg.

Riley’s mother Maureen, and Nora’s mother Paige are soon joined by their sister Elayne, but not Riley’s father. When he left, Riley had told Nora, he was as good as dead to her. But, as the family gathers at the hospital to support Riley, as Riley struggles to recover her ability to communicate, old family tensions mount as new ones are created, and secrets and truths are revealed. 

One of the things Cronin does really well in this novel is to look at problems of communication within this family’s dynamics, a dynamic Nora is just becoming part of when she uses blackmail to get Riley on the Cyclone. I liked that way she used Riley’s stroke to take them all back to square one and begin to learn how to communicate with each other openly and honestly. And it is through this process that Nora realizes the she needs to start listening to what people are saying to her and not be so wrapped up in herself. A case in point is Jack, a boy Nora meets in the CICU (Children's Intensive Care Unit) family room. Jack tells her he is there for his brother Colin, who has leukemia. But Jack is a boy she never really listened to until she is forced to learn his truth.

I did find the many, many footnotes a little annoying and a lot pedantic. But our narrator is Nora, a 12 year old, who tells the story of what happens in her youthful way. So, while I was able to skip most of them, I realize Nora, like most of her readers, would not have the experiential knowledge an older person has. And, the footnotes do serve to let readers appreciate the seriousness of what happens to Riley (and other hospitalized kids). 

Cyclone is Doreen Cronin’s debut middle grade novel. I found her writing to be clear and straight forward, her characters are believable, and her plot well constructed, so much so, that I read the novel in one sitting. I also thought that using the Cyclone as a symbol for the ups and downs of family relationships was brilliant. This is a book I would recommend to young readers who are looking for good realistic fiction.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was an EARC received from EdelweissPlus

PS - if you like roller coasters, the Cyclone is one you shouldn't miss, if possible. It's not the biggest, but it is 90 years old, and made of wood, so it really does make the click clack sound as the cars go over the wooden track ties. I have ridden it three times in my life as a child while my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my brother. Years later, my brother proposed to his wife at the summit of the first drop. 

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