Mar 5, 2012

Review - Riding Out the Storm by Sis Deans

Riding Out the Storm by Sis Deans
February 28th, 2012 from Henry Holt

Seven months have kept thirteen-year-old Derek from his sick brother Zach. Now that Zach is a ward of the state at seventeen and his parents have lost everything trying to help him, Derek and his grandfather board a Greyhound in the middle of a fierce snowstorm to see Zach for the first time since he was taken away. Along his journey we learn about Zach's illness and the devastating effects it had on his entire family. When Derek starts talking with a girl he has dubbed Purplehead, Derek thinks that maybe this long bus ride won't be so bad after all.

The story behind Zach's illness is revealed in short flashbacks as Derek recounts the demise of Zach's health and the series of hospital and doctor visits that lead to the loss of their family home. It all started with mild rebellion, but soon the family realized that Zach was more than just a little hot-headed. His highs and lows were more than the family could bare and after a suicide attempt, they lost Zach along with everything else. I really enjoyed learning exactly what happened to Zach. In the beginning, we weren't sure how sick Zach is or the nature of his illness. This part of the story slowly evolves over time and the pacing of the reveal was very well done.

Purplehead, we never do learn her real name, has an interesting story of her own. I love that she comes off as a tough, can't-touch-me kind of girl but through time and late night conversations, she opens up to Derek. Turns out her life isn't picture perfect either and they both figure out they have more in common than they thought. Their sarcastic and witty banter is enjoyable and gives the heavy story a much needed comedic break

I had a little trouble with Zach and the consistency of his speech. At the beginning of the story, Zach comes off as a street kid with a heavy crunk or thug speech pattern. Using words like: yuh, hafta, musta....were prevalent in the beginning, but towards the end of the book, they were used sparsely. I'm not sure why that it is, but for me the difference was noticeable. Generally, it did not sway my opinion of the book. I enjoyed Derek and my heart weighed heavy on his family's situation. I think the book conveys an honest look into two lives with deep-rooted family issues while touching on the very political and jaded medical industry.

Cover update - I enjoy the addition of Purplehead on the cover and it gives it all a little less psychotic feel. I know, interesting choice of words, but with two Derek's on the cover like the one above, that is my interpretation. Plus, that is pretty much how I pictured Purplehead.
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You can find Deans at her website