Thanks to Wednesday Books for providing me with an eARC for this wonderful book and letting me join in on this blog tour! Today I will be reviewing HURRICANE SUMMER, a stunningly powerful debut that is set in the countryside of Jamaica from the POV of a Jamaican-Canadian teenager who discovers her estranged father’s side of the family over the course of a summer that changes her life.
HURRICANE SUMMER by Asha Bromfield
On-sale: May 4th, 2021
In this sweeping debut, Asha Bromfield takes readers to the heart of Jamaica, and into the soul of a girl coming to terms with her family, and herself, set against the backdrop of a hurricane.
Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.
When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.
In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise―all in the midst of an impending hurricane.
Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic―and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.
Before I get into my review I would like to share the content/trigger warnings for this book as the story is heavy and intense and I recommend you look into these TWs before reading this for yourself.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: sexual assault, rape, racism, colorism, classism, slut shaming, abuse (verbal and physical), death
"How beautiful it was to be destroyed"
HURRICANE SUMMER was a book I had been anticipating ever since I read the title, the synopsis and saw THAT gorgeous cover. When finally read it, I found myself thrusted into something that put me through anxiety and intense emotions. There were many unexpected things and often times unpleasant and tense moments that happened over the course of HURRICANE SUMMER. Moments of bliss and summer vibes that eventually spiraled like a hurricane into moments of violence, tension, and raw emotion.
This is a pretty typical YA premise. Being that of a coming of a age story and finding out about yourself through your family and the new people and places you meet along the way. But this one has a unique and fresh perspective that stands out to me. HURRICANE SUMMER follows 17 year old Tilla, a Jamaican-Canadian teenager who alongside her 9 year old sister Mia, go to spend the summer in Jamaica with their estranged father, Tyson. What follows is a tale that explores Tilla’s complicated and heartbreaking dynamic with her father, her father’s side of the family whom she used to know when she was younger but is also as estranged and distant as her father and how she comes to learn the ways of Jamaica and what it means to be yourself.
I really enjoyed the writing. It felt immersive as I entered in a story where I was not familiar with the Patois dialect that nearly every character speaks (there is a Patois Word Bank at the beginning of the book if you feel lost), but I began to be more familiar with the language of the book as Tilla becomes herself. The lush and wondrous descriptions of Jamaica, both as its being stormed in on by Hurricane Gustav and before the storm, when Tilla and her cousins and the neighborhood kids venture through the cooling waters and greenery.
Tilla is a strong protagonist. I ached for her as the story went on and as it got more intense and emotional. She faces a lot of adversity throughout the story, starting with her relatives, especially her religious yet hypocritical and abusive Aunt Herma, and her cousin Diana. She also faces cold treatment from her other aunts and uncles. And it never changes. I had expected maybe things could be better as Tilla did as well. There were some things in the story that addressed the reasons for maybe why they hated her. For one instance being that since she’s from Canada she is more privileged than they are which Tilla herself acknowledges that she has privilege. However a lot of their hatred towards her is way more personal and eventually becomes way beyond redeeming when things get more violent and toxic and it ends up breaking Tilla apart. When Tilla stands up to them, there is a lot of anger and strength within her that I have to applaud her for. When I say this story is intense, I mean it is intense.
The few people she does feel warmth from are Hessan and Andre. Hessan being her love interest…as well as Diana’s fiancé which becomes more complicated throughout the story. I bought their chemistry but at the same time I could feel it easily being upended due to him easily believing the lies and hate that the others in the town believe about Tilla. I’m happy that at the end Tilla was able to see that Hessan was not for her and that didn’t have to forgive him. Andre, her cousin, faces prejudice because of having dark skin and is punished physically and emotionally by the neighborhood kids and his own family, with Tilla being one of the only people in the story to understand how much pain and suffering he goes through and treats him like a person. Their friendship was nice to see and it broke my heart when he was found dead after the hurricane since he was one of the few genuine bonds that she made during her trip.
Her story with her father grows even more complicated than it ever had been as she uncovers many secrets about him that she never knew: he owns a farm, he is seen as respected by everyone in town, he has another family which includes a young woman and a son. Which leads her to eventually come to understand that her father is never going to be the father she wants him to be.
Overall, this story’s strength is Tilla’s growth in realizing she doesn’t need to look for a home in her father or his family or in Jamaica. But she needs to find her own.
But I know now that there will always be a hole in my heart the size of my father. And that is okay. In time, I will learn to fill it with my own magic. My own resilience. My own love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Asha Bromfield is an actress, singer, and writer of Afro-Jamaican descent. She is known for her role as Melody Jones, drummer of Josie and the Pussycats in CW’s Riverdale. She also stars as Zadie Wells in Netflix’s hit show, Locke and Key. Asha is a proud ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, and she currently lives in Toronto where she is pursuing a degree in Communications. In her spare time, she loves studying astrology, wearing crystals, burning sage, and baking vegan desserts. Hurricane Summer is her debut novel.
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