Tornado Brain

Putnam. May 2020. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781984815316.
Gr 6 Up–In this heartfelt coming-of-age mystery, Frankie is a 13-year-old twin from a sleepy, Washington state beach town who has one friend. Or rather, had one friend. Now Colette only wants to be friends with Frankie’s sister, Tess. Tess is nice and sociable; Frankie is neurodiverse and struggles to read people. She works hard to moderate her behavior without taking medication, but noises are distracting, emotions are confusing, and even the sensation of clothes can easily irritate her. To Frankie, her brain twists and skips around like a tornado, so she loves learning about them. Tornado Alley is her favorite TV show, and the text is full of facts about tornadoes. Frankie has her routine and she is comfortable with it but then, just before the end of seventh grade, Frankie’s world is shaken when Colette goes missing. Despite their falling out, Frankie is determined to extricate the truth from the clues left behind. The writing style in this novel is a bit jarring. It successfully mimics the way Frankie’s brain works. The narration feels disjointed and jumps around in order to express the turmoil of Frankie’s mind. While it helps the reader understand her, it can be challenging to read. Between this and the length, this is not a book for reluctant readers, which is unfortunate because the appeal is there. The characters are a strength in this story. Being a twin means that, even though Frankie is telling the story, there are two unique points of view presented: her own and Tess’s. The different ways in which people can experience anger, hope, fear, and loss are beautifully explored.
VERDICT This is an important book for readers and it will be a good general purchase for most libraries serving a middle grade population.

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