Book review: Hurricane Song: a novel of New Orleans by Paul Volponi

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“Hurricane Song: a novel of New Orleans” by Paul Volponi. First published 2008 by Viking

Set during Hurricane Katrina, “Hurricane Song: A Novel of New Orleans” is depicted through the eyes of Miles Shaw, a high school student who has recently moved to live with his father, a jazz musician in New Orleans. Miles and his father don’t see eye to eye on things. Football is important to Miles; his father doesn’t seem to care about anything except for his jazz music. When Hurricane Katrina strikes, there is no time for Miles and his father to disagree. Along with his uncle, they need to seek shelter fast. What seems like a safe place quickly becomes fraught with danger – and not just from the hurricane. Life-or-death decisions loom large. Themes of humanity, hope and family entwine in this fast-paced and gritty novel for young adults.


The action mounts all the way through the book. Miles is exposed to life-threatening situations many times during the course of this book. Can Miles and his father ever have a positive relationship? Before they can answer this question they first have to survive.

The journalistic background of author Paul Volponi is evident in the writing style of this teen book. Although told in the first person, the fast-paced events are described in an observational manner and the emotion comes only from Miles’ viewpoint and not that of the writer. This technique is perfect for a fictional book set during a real-life event, as is the case in this novel, giving the reader a sense of being there.

Character development is shown through the actions in the here-and-now combined with flashbacks to Miles’ earlier life. The character of the uncle helps tie these past and current events together and imparts to the reader a sense of the father’s earlier life without losing the pacing of the plot.

To whom will this book appeal?
This young adult book will interest mature teen readers within the age group of 17 and up. This is because the devastating consequences of Hurricane Katrina as depicted in the book involve graphic situations and violence. Additionally, those interested in disaster response and survival, or problematic father-son relationships will find this book interesting.

Conclusion

Overall, Hurricane Song: A Novel of New Orleans is a gritty and fast-paced young adult novel which is suited to more mature readers.

Available in Kindle, hardcover and paperback.