We Are Still Tornadoes, Michael Kun, Susan Mullen

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I guess I must have subconsciously had a thing for novels told in letters, since this is the second one that I've read in the last month. Unlike  Ella Minnow Pea, however, I really enjoyed We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen.

The book details the first year after high school of two best friends, Scott and Cath. Cath has gone off to Wake Forest College, Scott has stayed home to help in his father's men's clothing store, and maybe start a band. Cath and Scott send letters back and forth sharing all of the ins and outs of their new lives; boyfriends, girlfriends, roommates, family trouble, song lyrics...Both Cath and Scott had some major stuff go down in their lives-divorce, death-and throughout it all they managed to keep their friendship alive and kicking.

I think part of the reason I loved this book as much as I did is that it was set in the 80s, which is when I was in high school and college, and because I also had a best friend named Scott who became my penpal after he moved away in middle school. We corresponded all through high school and into college, and I consider it one of the great disappointments of my life that I managed to lose him somewhere between college and the real-world. Like Cath and her Scott, my friend and I shared all of our joys and sorrows and successes and failures, our goals and dreams, and had the kind of supportive friendship that I didn't have with most of the people I saw every day.

Besides the personal connection to the main characters, I also loved how the authors brought back the 80s through the offhand cultural references the characters make in their letters, especially about music. There are so many musical references to everyone from Michael Jackson to Joy Division that I had to go to my music library and evaluate whether I had enough 80s music (the answer? You can never have enough 80s music).

My only complaint about the book was the ending, which I won't spoil, but just know that I really wanted it to go a different way. The strength of their friendship was the heart of this novel, and I think that the ending turned it into something else. But despite that, I would still recommend this novel to young adult and adult readers alike. I think it appeals to both in different ways, because as nostalgic as it felt for me, the themes explored are still completely relevant to youth today.

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