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Hurricane Season

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This debut novel—about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about growing up and coming out—will make its way straight into your heart.

Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.

Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.

Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published May 7, 2019

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About the author

Nicole Melleby

10 books199 followers
Nicole Melleby, a Jersey native, is the author of highly praised middle-grade books, including the Lambda Literary finalist Hurricane Season and ALA Notable Children's book How to Become a Planet. She currently teaches at the Fairleigh Dickinson MFA Creative Writing program and lives with her wife and their cats, whose needs for attention oddly align with Nicole’s writing schedule.

Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LadyMelleby

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 263 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,536 reviews9,771 followers
May 10, 2023
On the outside, Fig seems like any other 6th-grader, but due to some pretty serious issues at home, she finds herself in an almost constant state of anxiety.

She lives alone with her father, a once renowned pianist, who is battling undiagnosed bipolar disorder. As a consequence, Fig's role is often one more of parent than child.

Regardless of the daily struggles, Fig loves her father with her whole heart and she knows that he loves her too. He is trying his hardest, he really is, but without any sort of outside assistance, or treatment, they are barely getting by.

After her father causes an embarrassing incident at school, one of Fig's teachers becomes concerned about his mental state and ends up contacting Child Protective Services.

With their life now overseen by a social worker, Fig feels even more pressure to project as much normalcy as she can.

During an art class, she learns a bit about Vincent Van Gogh and his mental health issues. She can see similarities between Van Gogh's personality and her father's.

This similarity propels her to find out all she can about the artist, in an effort to better understand how her father's mind works.

Through it all, Fig is also dealing with regular things that any other 6th grader would be. Feeling out of place at school, tension with some friends and discovering her own sexuality.

This book is so beautiful and pure. I adore Fig with my whole heart. She is such a precious little bean, who is wise beyond her years. Her relationship with her best friend, Danny, is darling, as is her crush on Hannah, the girl who works at her local library.

I was very impressed with the writing and overall feel of this story. Melleby does a seamless job of inserting important topics into the narrative without them seeming forced. The story felt very organic.

I was legit an emotional mess upon finishing this. It was just gorgeous. The strength of the bond between Fig and her father. His will to overcome challenges and work through his illness any way he could, it was...ugh...no words.

My heart is full.

I would recommend this to anyone. Even though this is a Middle Grade story, I think this can absolutely be enjoyed by Readers of all ages!
Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,826 reviews2,187 followers
May 22, 2021
4 stars!

What an excellent middle grade novel about mental health and family.

Hurricane Season is about sixth grader Fig who lives with her father. He once was a very talented musician but hasn’t been able to compose any new music in years. But lately he’s been disoriented and acting strange in front of other people, and social services have gotten involved. Fig does her best to dive into books for a school project on Vincent Van Gogh, and she begins to understand her father a little bit more.

I thought this middle grade book was absolutely fantastic. Granted, I’m reading it from an adult perspective, but I think this book did a great job of presenting mental illness in a way that is understandable to kids. I thought Fig’s relationship with her father was something very special, if flawed. This book also shows how uncertainty at that age can bring about anxiety and social issues and I thought all of it was handled very well. I will definitely be picking up more books by this author in the future and recommending them to the middle grade readers coming into my library.
Profile Image for Joshua Levy.
Author 5 books81 followers
December 4, 2018
I do not have the words for how much I enjoyed HURRICANE SEASON, or how important a book I think it will be to many kids. Fig and her dad are on their own. She's a sixth grader, trying to navigate that tumultuous age--while simultaneously taking care of her dad, an out-of-the-game musician whose mental health has deteriorated over time. Fig has the whole world on her shoulders, and then some. And she handles that burden with the absolutely perfect blend of grace and frazzled exhaustion.

I don't say this lightly: HURRICANE SEASON is an extraordinary achievement. It soars on the back of its big themes: Family, mental health, learning to be okay with who you love. But it was particularly powerful in the small moments: Fig contending with feelings for the girl who works at her library. Fig being overwhelmed with emotion (and not just gratitude) at small kindnesses. Fig's grounded territorialism about who has the right to save her dad. Her frustration at the reality that it can't fall to her alone.

(Also, I won't lie: I learned a ton about Vincent Van Gogh.)

There are a lot of incredible middle grade books coming out in 2019. Please read this one.
Profile Image for •°• gabs •°•.
248 reviews199 followers
July 30, 2020
just as good (and even better) the third time around this book means so much to me *cries*

so. this little book means the world to me.

“The sadness will last forever,” Vincent had said to Theo, moments before he died. Fig thought maybe she could understand him now.
She started thinking about curried spinach, and braids, and darlings—of piano chords and museums and starry nights. She started thinking of her father’s arms and Mark’s arms, and the comfort they gave each other that she wished they’d give her instead.

despite being a middle grade novel, it deals with many serious topics and it does so in an amazing way, beginning with tim's bipolar disorder, to pain and trying to be better for the people you love, to hurting and forgiving.

i also love the way sexuality is portrayed in this novel because it is a coming out story both for fig and her father in a way, but it is not the focal point of the story. i know that lgbtq+ people are most of the time having huge issues when it comes to this, but it is liberating and hopeful to read stories that don't center around hardships and homophobia. both tim and fig are questioning and are insecure, but everyone is accepting and supportive, and it makes me happy.

we deserve these kinds of stories, we deserve hope and seeing people accepting themselves and being accepted by others.

They both loved a man who sometimes hurt them. Not because he wanted to but because his mind sometimes failed him, and he needed help that wasn’t always a perfect fix. They both wanted him to be okay.

it's such a well written book and i adore tim and fig's father/daughter relationship SO MUCH, the little family that they have means the world to me, they are far from perfect, but they love each other with everything they've got. this book will forever hold a special place in my heart.

this book!!! i cant stop crying this was so so sO SO GOOD RTC!!
Profile Image for Naomi Milliner.
Author 2 books71 followers
December 30, 2018
This is a beautiful, must-read book for MG readers - and their parents. Covering everything from Vincent Van Gogh (in the best way possible) to mental illness to sexuality, this debut novel has it all - and it is all done with grace and compassion and great care. Fig and her story will stay with you long after you turn the last page, which is as breathtaking as its cover - and that says a lot.
Profile Image for Tatevik.
457 reviews90 followers
February 4, 2021
“There is peace even in the storm”
― Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Do you know what it feels like to be constantly responsible for everything from your pre-teens, trying to make everything right and sensing that you are sucking at it every time? And not having a normal childhood, trying to be mature and in charge of every step? Well, sometimes you just want to cry and tell everybody that you give up!

Fig felt that way with her every cell and needed someone to hug her and tell her it's alright, that she will come out of it stronger, not to give up.

“To suffer without complaint is the only lesson we have to learn in this life”
― Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

P.S. I couldn't understand van Gogh's paintings until I accidentally found the big exhibition of his paintings in Paris, at the Orsay museum. Then it hit me.

P.P.S I needed to assemble an Ikea wardrobe and I swear there were at least 100 pieces to put together. I checked what I can listen to while doing it, and this cover caught my eye. Didn't read the description, didn't check who read this from my friends, just pressed play and scratching my head dived into that puzzle. It took me more than two hours to put that together, and later I tried to find something else to do in order to carry on with listening to this book. Because this was captivating. It started as a five-star book then smoothly slid to a three-star. Very promising debut though.
Profile Image for Tina (Trying to Catch Up).
2,450 reviews1 follower
June 4, 2021
This is a LGBT Middle Grade with Mental Health in it. I love this book because it covers so much, and it does covers everything so very well. I love to read books with Mental Health in it because I feel it is not cover a lot, and this book is done so well. This book is told by Fig who is in 6st grade. I love her character because her character feels so real. I do not read a lot of books with LGBT in it, but I think this book covers it very well for middle grade age kids which is great. My daughter is in 6st grade, and she told me that she likes girls. So, Of course I have been reading Middle Grade LGBT books so I know what books would be good for her to read.
Profile Image for Farah.
767 reviews90 followers
December 18, 2019
Honest to everything sane and insane, I'm still speechless over what I just read. I feel that words can never justify the intensity of emotions that manage to barrel their way across the pages and hit me with the force - Yes, Episode 9 is out today and I'll definitely be bringing a pillow and a blanket.

Fiona aka Fig was an 11 year old living with her musician dad. Her mum took of when she turned a day old and for the next 4O14 days, it had always been Fig and Dad. I loved their relationship, they were a team through thin and thick. Perfect right, until dad's bipolar disorder began to cause trouble for the dynamic duo to the extent of getting the CPS involved.

I'm a believer that kids should enjoy their childhood so reading Fig's emotional turmoil, dealing with her dad's illness, handling school and playing the role of a parent, was heartbreaking. Despite her dad's condition, Fig was never ashamed of him and terrified of being separated from her dad.

Hope came through love for the both of them. I wasn't really happy with the author's approach but since it was carefully structured/executed, and missing the insta vibe, I was okay with it.

Fig was asked by her bestie to be his girlfriend, she turned him down gently, as she had her eyes set on the library volunteer. When she confessed to her dad -

Dad: “So . . . you like girls, then?”
Fig: “I like Hannah, I don’t know the rest.” - well done, Fig!
Profile Image for Emily.
628 reviews
November 30, 2018
An emotionally-rich story about a sixth-grade girl struggling to make sense of and care for her father, a famous musician, who has become increasingly mercurial and ill as a result of undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

To figure him out, Fig immerses herself in biographies of Vincent Van Gogh, an artist whose temperament reminds her of her father's. If she studies art and this particular artist, she thinks, she'll understand her father better and perhaps unlock his secrets.

While at the library, Fig develops a crush on the high school girl working at the circulation counter and befriends a classmate (Danny), who is also in her art class. At home, she finds herself relying on a new neighbor, both thankful and troubled by his developing relationship with her dad.

Through all of this, Fig watches the weather and worries about the physical and emotional toll an impending hurricane might take on those she loves.
Profile Image for Leeanne.
198 reviews11 followers
November 14, 2022
I don't know much about Vincent van Gogh. I'm sure I studied him once in school, probably in the early grades because I only remember bits and pieces. What I do remember somehow always gets confused with Leonardo da Vinci (which I have to always mentally correct myself before saying, otherwise I end up saying DiCaprio). I know nothing about da Vinci so I have no idea how these two men ever got confused. I know van Gogh did Starry Night, the bedroom, his sunflowers, and cut off his own ear, but I constantly forget the Mona Lisa is da Vinci's, not his. I feel terrible about this blending together of two very different people (they're not even from the same century!!! What!?). I promised myself I would work very hard to fully separate them in my mind. They deserve it. Have I worked on this yet? Not really, but I think this book helped.

There are a lot of things to love about this book: the characters & their relationships, the storyline, the setting, the writing style, and the gentle care in which the topics of mental health and sexuality are handled. I can feel Nicole Medley's love for her characters, and that's really beautiful. I almost can’t believe this is her debut novel. I’ll have to check out her other books.

I'm really struggling to find the words to express how beautiful, necessary, and moving this book is. The entire thing made me want to cry. THE ENTIRE BOOK. It's just so beautiful. It's ravishing. It's something I didn't know I needed. This also came at a perfect time. During the time I was reading this I had a very, very bad cold and I felt terrible. I was mostly condemned to silence from lack of a voice, and sounded and felt like I'm going to cough my lungs up. I needed something beautiful like this. Middle grade fiction is honestly the best. I'm going to need to get my own copy of this book. I need to know I have this when I need it.

Fig... What to say about Fig? Finola is so precious. She's so relatable even if our lives are very different. She’s so desperate to understand her artist father that she takes an art class even though STEM courses are her thing. She wants to know what he sees when he stands on the beach in the middle of a hurricane, or even when he’s standing there on a regular day. She’s so worried about her dad. She’s only in sixth grade, but she is his caretaker more often than not. Her teacher realizes there is a problem when Fig’s dad shows up to art class one day, his eyes unfocused, desperate to find Fig. This leads CP & P (Child Protection and Permanency) to their door, again, and this time they will be keeping a much closer eye on Fig and her dad. His mind doesn’t work very well all the time, and Fig is afraid that CP & P will take her away from him due to this.

Fig loves her dad, she really does, but sometimes he makes it really hard. Hurricane season is the worst. He’s obsessed with hurricanes, and New Jersey gets one every now and then. He loves them, Fig hates them. He always gets weird when he knows they're coming. She has her calendar marked so that she can count the days until the hurricane danger passes, which is going to correspond with the date that CP&P will make their final decision.

This leads me to Tim Arnold, the once-renowned pianist and composer who hasn’t written a piece of music since Fig was born. Fig has a hard time imagining the man he was before. Sometimes she catches glimpses of the man before, on his better days, but most of the time he’s lost in her father’s head with the music she can’t hear, seeing the things in the ocean that she can’t see. He tries really hard, but he can’t fight what’s happening inside his head alone. He hates losing track of himself, publicly embarrassing his daughter, (Oh, the second hand embarrassment was so strong!) and having to rely on their new neighbour for everything. He hates the fact that she soon gets so caught up in how similar his problems are to Vincent van Gogh’s that she can’t see him anymore.

“I feel like there is something vibrating inside me. I feel anxious and jittery and scared, Fig. And this is me when I do feel better. You do such a wonderful job of taking care of me, but we need help, both of us, because it can’t be all on your little shoulders. And I need to stop feeling this way.”

Fig starts learning about Vincent van Gogh because she has a big art project to do and she’s struggling to find inspiration. She becomes obsessed when she realizes the similarities between Vincent and her dad, and Theo van Gogh and herself. Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo help Fig to understand her father. She thinks that he is Vincent and she is his Theo.

"Vincent couldn't have been Vincent without Theo, and Fig could not have been Fig without her dad. And maybe that was where she had gotten it wrong all along... Because she felt like she was losing him, and she wasn't his Theo, but he was hers, and she needed him and didn't know what to do now that he didn't need her."

Mark Finzi is their new neighbour. He’s different from all their other neighbours who think Fig’s father is crazy. Mark drags her dad out of a hurricane, and he seems to understand the things about her dad that she can’t. She knows they need Mark’s help, but she hates that they need him. Fig and Mark have a rocky relationship because of this. As Mark and her dad get closer, Fig feels like she’s slipping farther away from everything. Mark is butting into her family and she doesn’t know what to do about it.

"She was caught between wanting to yell at him to mind his own business, and wanting to cry because there was someone who noticed her enough to piece together her mind the way she was trying to do with her dad's." (This quote always makes me very emotional)

Another character I loved was Fig’s friend Danny Carter. Danny wants to help Fig figure out her dad, and he also wants to be more than just friends with her. Danny is so sweet, and he turns out to be a very loyal, supportive friend, exactly what Fig needs. Even when Fig admits that she likes the girl at the library, not him, Danny eventually comes around and realizes that he’d rather have her as his best friend than not at all.

I just love this book so much. I can't even seem to fully express it, just like my love of the movie Zootopia. This book feels like a warm hug on a cold day when you’re feeling kind of depressed. This book just makes me feel like everything is going to be okay, and those kinds of books are the best. With time, and with help from others, everything is going to be okay. We’re all going to be okay, we’ll survive this hurricane.

Thank you Nicole, thank you Vincent, but most of all, thank you Theo van Gogh. This book is clearly, in part, a love letter to Vincent van Gogh, but even more so, it’s a thank you letter to Theo. Theo believed in and appreciated Vincent before anyone else did. He didn’t entirely understand his brother (there was no understanding of mental illness then) but he loved his brother despite his problems and he knew that Vincent didn’t mean to be a burden. He looked at Vincent and decided he would love him no matter how difficult Vincent made it. He would not give up on him. Without Theo, there would be no Vincent, and without Vincent, this book wouldn’t be the beautiful gift to the world that it is.
Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
512 reviews298 followers
February 26, 2019
Mini review:

I received this E-ARC via Algonquin Young Readers and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Trigger warning: Mention of ‘sick’ parent. Most likely mental illness. And child services. Till the point I read.

When I heard about this book through the publisher I was sold! I was so excited and happy when I got an arc. Unfortunately it wasn’t for me.

I didn’t like the writing style. And didn’t much care for the plot or the characters. I can’t speak for the mental illness rep. Though from other reviewers I’ve heard it’s good.

Still recommend.
Profile Image for Mandy.
636 reviews67 followers
February 10, 2019
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book. 

I'mma just sit here and be drenched in the hurricane of feels please and thank you.

Stop whatever you're doing right here and now and please add this book to your TBR. Seriously. This is one of the best middle grade books that I ever read, and I just CANNOT. I'm just over here curled into a ball because this book almost made me cry - yes, REAL ACTUAL TEARS COMING FROM THIS COLD HEARTED NON-BOOK CRIER - and wogmnlwegnealrg I JUST CAN'T.

Things to love about this book: well, basically, everything, but I'll try to form coherent sentences to explain.

- the heart. Omigosh, this book has SO SO SO much heart. It will take all of your feels, squeeze them together, force you to embrace them, and then squish them back inside you. That doesn't even make sense, but that's how I feel. Everything in this book made me happy, sad, uplifted, energized, and more!

- the writing. The writing was so so good. It was so easy to read, and easy to understand, and there was nothing confusing, and I like just binged this book so easy and like, if you are reading this as one long sentence that is me out of breath, it's exact like that. I will definitely be picking up whatever Melleby writes in the future.

- Fig. Omigosh, Figgggggggggggggg. I love her so much. She has a wonderful voice. She is real and messy and loving and caring and so so so strong and brave. She has been taking care of her dad her entire life, and she so desperately wants to love and be loved. She is wise beyond her years, but she is also exactly her age. She gets jealous and petty, but that's exactly how anyone would act in her situation. Ugh, she is just so realistic and you canNOT help but root for her. Mandy = her #1 cheerleader and you gonna have to fight me if you want to take this position.

- the mental health aspect. This book shows the highs and lows of dealing with a loved one's mental health struggles. Fig's dad has bi-polar disorder, and he has high highs and low lows. We see it all, and his struggle to become better - and Melleby does not ever wrap it in a nice little bow. She shows how messy and rewarding the journey is.

- coming of age aspect. Not only is Fig going through all of this, she is still going through the struggles of being a kid turning into a teen and finding who she is as a person. While she deals with maybe mean girls, a new friendship, and figuring out her sexuality and her attraction to the high school girl at the library, she stands through it all with so much heart and bravery.

- the other cast of characters. Omg, Mark and her dad were so much love. UGH. I can't. Just let me be in my feels with them. Let's just say the cast of characters were amazing and dynamic and JUST READ THIS BOOK OKAY.

There is so much else that was amazing in this book, but seriously, just stop reading this review and go pre-order this fantastic book. It's a story for all ages, and IT IS JUST SO GOOD. Ugh, I can't anymore. I just need to go in a corner somewhere. 5 crowns and an Aurora rating because it's a true classic!
Profile Image for Jocelyn.
244 reviews1 follower
May 29, 2019

Fionla ("Fig") is a sixth grader with a lot on her plate. Suffering from a psychiatric disorder that leaves him unable to make music anymore, her father is barely able to function on the best of days. No longer selling out large music halls, her dad makes ends meet by giving sporadic piano lessons when he's up for it.

After her father made a few too many embarrassing outbursts at Fig's school and around the neighborhood, Child Services is closely monitoring them. Terrified of being taken away from her father, Fig is desperate to understand his troubling mind.

When an art project at school leads her to the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh, the artist's turbulent life and struggle with mental illness seems to be the key Fig has been looking for.


Hurricane Season is a beautiful exploration into mental illness and presents it in a very accessible and realistic way for both young and adult readers. It also explores sexual orientation in a practical manner that is helpful for young and old alike. Neither of these topics is portrayed as taboo or something to be ashamed of. They are simply just facts of life.

Also, if you don't know a lot about Van Gogh's life or about storm season on the eastern seaboard, you'll certainly learn a lot while reading this. It was all pretty fascinating.


If you pick this one up, which I highly recommend that you do, bear in mind that this is aimed at middle school aged readers. It's a short read, but one that has no shortage of emotions. My heart constantly broke for Fig as I was reading this. As if being in sixth grade isn't hard enough with all the emotional and physical changes that occur at that age (and how horrible other sixth graders can be), she also has this constant fear of being taken away from her father looming over her life.

We never meet her mother and all we learn about her is that she left the day Fig was born. It's always just been Fig and her dad against the world. It's devastating how much is on this poor kid's shoulders.

It does end on a hopeful high note so don't worry about finishing this and being bereft. It also has left itself open to a sequel, one I would eagerly read if published.

Final Thoughts

Nicole Melleby has carefully written a moving tale about how mental illness can affect a family. It's not only a wonderful book, but it's a great tool for young readers to learn about mental illness, sexuality, and art history too. I wouldn't hesitate to buy this for the young readers in my life and some of the adults as well.

Read my full review here! Hurricane Season Review by A Little Nerd Told Me

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this in exchange for a review.
Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,429 reviews234 followers
April 27, 2019
It had been Fig and her dad against the world since she was born, but when one of her father's episodes captured the attention of Fig's art teacher, it became Fig and dad against the Child Protection & Permanency department. As the months counted down during this figurative and literal hurricane season, Fig could not help but wonder if she would be able to save her family.

My emotions! My emotions! My heart was cracking in half during the early chapters of this books. It is always heartbreaking to read about children, who are thrust into grownup situations, caring for their grownup, when that grownup should really be caring for them. I sniffled and cried as Fig related how she paid the bills and made sure there was food, but what really killed me, was the isolation she suffered due to her peers, who lacked empathy and compassion. To make matters worse, Fig had to deal with the fear of being separated from the only parent she had ever known.

But, Melleby allayed my fears by inserting a new neighbor into their lives, Mark. Fig first called on Mark out of fear during a storm, but Mark and Fig's dad develop a friendship, which eventually grew into more. The new situation left Fig feeling like the odd-man out, and these emotions, combined with her own fear of losing her father, on top of her discovering her feelings for another girl was a lot for Fig to process.

Fig made it through her hurricane season ok, because there was always love in her home. Her father may have had vicious mood swings, but when he was "present", he was a caring and doting father.

I found this to be a very beautiful story, and I really appreciated Melleby's approach to the various issues she explored, especially dad's mental illness. At one point, we learned that Fig's dad was bipolar, and there was never discussion of a "cure". Rather, they talk about managing the symptoms, the difficulties of finding the right medications, and how the highs and lows may return every now and again. I felt it was an honest depiction of the challenges faced by those with mental illnesses and their loved ones, and was grateful that Melleby approached it that way.

Overall: A lovely and honest exploration of one girl's struggle to understand her father's illness while maintain her connection to him, which was emotional and touching, as well as hopeful.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Gail Shepherd.
Author 2 books85 followers
January 24, 2019
Nicole Melleby's HURRICANE SEASON is just a flat-out beautiful middle-grade debut--it's hard to know where to begin to praise it. The novel follows Fig, a soulful sixth grader, as she worries and wonders about her brilliant, beloved father, a composer and pianist who, we learn over time, is manic depressive. The novel takes place over the course of hurricane season, a fraught time for Fig and her dad; he's obsessively drawn to storms, which seem to embody the swirling vortex of his own madness. When his erratic behavior brings social services to their door; Fig is sure she's going to be taken from him.

Desperate to make sense of his illness, Fig is also obsessing on the biography and paintings of Vincent van Gough for a class project, convincing herself that her dad is destined for the same violent end as the artist. Melleby handles themes of mental illness, Fig's evolving sense of her attraction to other girls, and the psychic and spiritual demands of creativity with such sensitivity and grace. Her prose is pitch-perfect. Fig is so completely and carefully drawn that you can't help but fall in love with her. I can't recommend this hopeful, heartbreaking novel highly enough. Melleby is an author to watch.

Note: I read an advance readers copy provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Margaret.
227 reviews26 followers
June 22, 2021

Fig and her dad have always taken care of each other, but these days it seems like Fig is doing most of the caring as her dad, a brilliant pianist who hasn't written a song in years, struggles with bipolar disorder. As Fig tries to keep their little family together, she starts reading about Vincent van Gogh and, seeing similarities between him and her father, hopes that she can finally understand her father.

Allow me to introduce you to one of my new favorite middle grade books! I cannot tell you how happy this little book made me. I cried multiple times -- both sad cries and happy cries -- and my heart was full of love and butterflies throughout the entire thing.

This is a middle grade book that, in my opinion, can be read by anyone of any age, since it deals with serious topics like mental illness and coming out while not talking down to its reader in any way. Fig's struggle is written in such a way that a kid can understand while also being relatable to me as a 22 year old. Nicole Melleby's writing is absolutely incredible and I can't wait to read more from her!

The highlight of this book is its characters, especially Fig, who is brave and selfless and loving and so, so strong. I want to give her a hug and protect her forever. The relationship between her and her dad was at the heart of the story and it was one of the sweetest things I've ever read. I cannot urge you strongly enough to give this book a try; it will not disappoint.

Content warnings: depictions of bipolar disorder

Originally posted on blog
Profile Image for Nev.
1,051 reviews136 followers
October 6, 2019
I’m in awe of this book. Hurricane Season beautifully tackles a wide variety of topics in a middle grade story. Eleven year old Fig has too much on her plate, her mom left right after she was born and now Fig has to deal with taking care of her dad who has an undiagnosed mental illness. Fig decides to take an art class and start learning about Vincent van Gogh, hoping that she’ll better be able to understand what goes on in her dad’s mind.

Nicole Melleby’s writing is exquisite. Her descriptions of the art and the settings in the story really made everything come to life. I liked that this was written in third person, I sometimes find it harder to connect with first person POV middle grade stories. At times Fig does seem older than the typical sixth grader, but that makes sense considering how much of the time she’s required to be mature beyond her years.

I think this is a beautiful story about how a parent’s mental health can impact their children and shows the wide scope of understandable reactions that Fig has. It also touches on sexuality, as we see Fig have a crush on an older girl who works at the library.

Overall this is just an excellent book. I think it would be enjoyable for people who don’t typically read middle grade, the story doesn’t feel super young. I think there’s a definite maturity to the writing and the plot but it still seems like it’ll be accessible for younger readers. I’m just really happy that middle grade books like this exist these days.
Profile Image for •v•.
140 reviews62 followers
August 26, 2019
I used to have this huge assumption that a middle-grade story will be too childish for me, now that I'm in my twenties. I'm glad to say that I've been proven wrong after I read Hurricane Season.

Melleby's debut is an innocent coming of age journey, following the story of Fig and her attempt to looks normal in the eyes of her friends while also taking care of his pianist father who suffered from bipolar disorder. It explores art, coming out, finding your voice, and speaking the truth no matter how hard it seems to be. I've never thought that I'd learned so many things from a sixth-grader.

I'm definitely eyeing Melleby's next book and I'm on my way to check out more books in this genre!

Thank you Algonquin Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Sarah Gross.
91 reviews97 followers
January 2, 2019
I’m probably biased because I grew up where this story takes place. Although my friends and I went to the junction for pizza instead of ice cream, I loved this book. Highly recommended for middle school classroom libraries!
Profile Image for Amy.
1,063 reviews32 followers
November 25, 2018
Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for an eARC of this title for review. All opinions are my own.

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

I requested this book because I am always, always on the hunt for that elusive middle grade novel that reads with the fluidity and nuance of a YA title. This one seemed like it could be that and it was. I can't wait to order this for my library and hand it out to all of my readers who devour realistic fiction (I do have a big draw for that) AND I'm glad to be able to offer another read about the nuances of mental illness and how it can affect a family. The writing in this was so sparse, but so clear, that you could feel what the characters were feeling and see what they were seeing which lets the reader in on the intense feelings of anxiety Fig, the main character, feels throughout. It was a terrific read.

Fig is counting down for Hurricane Season to end. The date with the Child Protective agency coincides with the end of November, the end of the storm season, and a time when things should calm down for her dad. Her dad who is a brilliant pianist, a wonderful father, and a man who is incredibly hard to live with. He has days where he won't get out of bed, times when he shows up unannounced at school searching for Fig, and times when he chases the storms out at sea, standing and staring at the waters and the waves, searching for something that no one else seems to find. Fig is convinced that she is the only one that can take care of him, but even she realizes she needs help sometimes, so she asks Mark, the new neighbor, to come over. But then, it seems like he knows more about her dad than she does. Since she is always trying to be closer to him, Fig is determined to do well on her art project, which leads to a compulsive search on all things Van Gogh. As she learns more about Van Gogh, she learns more about her father, or at least she thinks she does. But she still isn't sure what she can do to help. Of course, what she has to learn is that an 11 year old won't be able to be the only thing that helps a parent with bipolar disorder. This is a fantastic look at mental illness, what it means to be a family, and how important it is to look for help.

Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Cindy.
Author 4 books316 followers
April 2, 2019
Have you ever read a book that was just so EXACTLY what you needed to read in a certain moment? A few months ago I picked up my e-ARC of Nicole Melleby's debut middle grade, HURRICANE SEASON, during a difficult and emotional week when I was dealing with a lot of frustration over a relationship that was changing in ways I didn't want it to.

I was immediately swept into the book by Nicole's lyrical prose, and the heartbreakingly bittersweet situation her heroine, Fig, finds herself in. I read quickly, completely immersed in Fig's world, and her courageous- but- misguided attempts to care alone for her sick father. I loved the way the details of the story—Fig's education in art and art history, her first crush and first coming-out moment, her father's hurricane obsession, and the new neighbor who might turn into something more—swirled together just as beautifully and evocatively as the Van Gogh-inspired cover art. Fig and her father are such tender and relatable characters, and their relationship is absolutely lovely, even as the dysfunction of their living situation is heartbreaking. Rarely do I feel quite so INSIDE a book world as I did with this one, like the story was becoming part of my DNA.

But the most unexpected thing to me about the book was just how deeply it resonated, when I read it, with the frustration I had been dealing with myself that week. Much of Fig's journey is about coming to understand that change is not inherently bad, I'm not letting other people into the circle she and her father have made will add richness to their lives and their relationship rather than taking away from it. In that moment, my adult self understood so deeply the pain and anxiety that preteen Fig felt as she tried to navigate so many new things in her life. I closed the book feeling deeply touched and renewed in a way I could hardly even describe. A way that comes from reading just the right book at just the right time. ❤️

HURRICANE SEASON releases on May 7th, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!
Profile Image for Sonja.
423 reviews28 followers
May 14, 2019
This is a truly, truly stunning middle-grade novel about Fig, an 11-year old math nerd who takes an art class in school in the hopes that it will make her understand her musician father who has bipolar disorder. The book is also super queer, which made my heart happy. And despite it dealing with many different things, it didn't for a second feel like an 'issue book'. It was just Fig's life, and her story was told so beautifully.

I genuinely bawled my eyes out while reading this, I just had a lot of feelings, etc. I also couldn't put it down and finished it in one sitting. I just really liked Fig so much and felt for her. She was truly a believable 11-year old and her narration was SO GREAT, especially getting across the things she clearly understood and then, in contrast, the things for which she didn't really have the concepts to explain them just yet.

I really liked all the main people in the book. Especially Mark. What a joy he was!

What a truly wonderful book that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone.
Profile Image for Phil J.
701 reviews54 followers
Shelved as 'notes-on-unfinished-books'
August 24, 2019
notes on ch. 1-3

I read these chapters a week ago, and they left so little impression that I had to flip back through them to even remember the basic plot elements. The plot is that a moderately sad girl doesn't fit in at school and has a mentally-ill father. We've been here before. In fact, last year's Newbery winner, Merci Suárez Changes Gears, had a nearly identical beginning.

Unlike some other "moderately sad girl" books I've recently looked at like Sweeping Up the Heart, Song for a Whale, and Shouting at the Rain, Melleby shows the good judgement to give a sense of urgency to the book. Child Services is considering taking custody of the main character. That gives the narrative some oomph, but not enough to make it stand out for me.
Profile Image for I'mogén.
896 reviews36 followers
August 31, 2020
Thank you Netgalley for an e-copy. All opinions remain my own.

What a beautiful story this was.

I like that we had a Van Gogh theme. After watching Loving Vincent last year I felt like I understood a bit more and could appriectae the references and connection that out main character, Fig, made between Van Gogh and her dad's mental health. (All the connections with music, art etc was great!)
I think the introduction to mental health for a young audience is tackled really well. I'm not sure if the author is own voices for this strand of mental health representation, but I do think it was expressed well, and although I didn't grow up like Fig, I felt I could relate having one parent that suffers with a strong mental health condition and only realising as I got older how that explained how he behaved at times.
I'm glad that it helped debunk straight away the stigma of bipolar disorder being like "split personality" which everyone assumes and described it more accurately as being depressed and manic, often with no in between. Two extremes.

Sexuality was also brought up in this. It felt soft and gentle, understanding and quite. I appreciated this way of bringing it up because it's nice to see a positive representation of coming out. Hopefully it makes a daunting experience less so, when you can see that it's not always a horrible outcome.

At first I thought Fig overreacted when finding out something to do with her dad and then I realised, as I looked at it through her eyes, that she felt he should have confided in her as she was experiencing something similar and tried so hard to understand him... she must have felt such deep rejection. How this eventually play out was so emotional to read.

I just found Hurricane Season to be so wholesome how, yes, things were traumatic for a young kid to be a part of and feel responsibility for, but it was written in a way that wouldn't scare a young audience, but perhaps make them ask questions and slowly find out what's happening as Fig and her dad find out together.

There were a lot of important themes on this book, that I found was tackled respectively, delicately, realistically, all without leaving behind general entertainment, enjoyability and a connection and care for what happened to our characters.

Pick it up, give it a go and enjoy! >(^_^)<
March 14, 2019
I read this book in one day!  Even though it is contemporary, I found it hard to put down.

Fig lives with her dad.  She's 11 and her mom left when she was a day old.  So all she knows is living alone with her dad.  Her brilliant musician dad who is mentally ill.  Fig takes care of him, but it's getting so hard.  Hurricane season is the hardest.  For some reason, her dad leaves the house and goes to the ocean during a bad storm.  The police had to bring him home and got child protective services involved.  Later a teacher calls them after Fig's dad shows up frantic at school.  So now they are visiting often, doing drug tests, and have given them the date at the end of November to discuss what will happen.  Fig is determined to keep her dad with her.

Fig starts studying Van Gogh for an art project.  She starts seeing her dad as Van Gogh.  She reads everything she can on him.  Her dad hasn't written any songs since she was born, but he does give music lessons.  Fig loves math, not the arts, but she wants to connect with and understand her dad more.

A new man moves in across the street and he starts helping Fig out with her dad.  Her dad likes him and Mark has a way of calming her dad down.  He helps her dad go to a doctor to find out what is wrong with him.  Once he's diagnosed as bi polar, Fig starts researching everything she can, too.  She feels like Mark is becoming too big of a part in their lives and she still wants to take care of her dad.  Even though it's getting to be too much.  We as readers get to see how it affects all aspects of Fig's life, including with kids at school.

I thought the author did a great job with mental illness and what it can do to a family.  I'm not bi polar, so I can't say how accurate it is.  But I do have family members who are and it did seem familiar.  Figs emotions really showed throughout the book.  And the love between Fig and her father was pretty incredible.

I gave this book 4  1/2 stars, rounded up to 5.  Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for sending me a physical copy for review.

Warnings for mental illness, especially how erratic it can be.  Also for child protection services.

Profile Image for Erin.
1,094 reviews49 followers
September 25, 2020
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Hurricane Season is a middle-grade novel that deals with mental health (bipolar disorder, anxiety), as well as discovering who you like romantically.

Fig is in the sixth grade and her entire life it's just been her and her dad. While most of the time that's been great, it's also gotten harder over the years as her dad's mental health has gone downhill and he has become seriously obsessed with hurricanes to the point where it is now dangerous. Fig is trying to handle this all on her own, but one night it becomes too much and she has to ask for help from a neighbor (Mark) and hopes he won't call the authorities and cause her to be taken away. Asking for help from the neighbor might just be the best decision fig has ever made in her young life, but it isn't an easy road ahead for any of them.

Overall I did really enjoy this book. Fig is a likable character and you see her struggle trying to juggle everything and knowing what to do or not do because of her age. The neighbor Mark ends up helping out Fig and her dad so so much and I loved seeing the relationship between all of them grow and change throughout the book. So much mental health-wise was covered in this book in a short time-period but it was all done well. We see Fig struggling to come to terms with all the new things happening with her dad, but also like some of the changes. We also see how much anxiety she really seems to have as the book goes on and we see it all really close in on her. I really liked Fig's relationship with Danny and how they helped each other, the little fight they ended up happening did seem realistic because that type of thing just happens when you're in sixth grade and learning to deal with emotions and conflict.

Slightly spoilery below this point.

Did anyone else not see the relationship happening between Mark and Fig's dad until Fig found them? That one surprised me, but after a while did make sense because of how much time they were spending together. Idk it just seems like it was kind of thrown in last minute to create a conflict of sorts. I did like what it did to the story I was just surprised by it.

Profile Image for Ophelia &#x1f49b;.
395 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2021
Really, really liked the premise. My only critique is that it was quite predictable. But to be honest I’m much older than the audience this has been written for so this might be a me problem. Also I feel like I rather got told how the characters feel rather than to really feel it through their actions/inner thoughts.
Nonetheless, go check out this book for yourself if it sounds appealing to you :) I really liked the bits with Van Gogh and also the cover is stunning!!
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