Publication Date: August 2, 2012
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Genre: YA Contemporary
One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane’s life for the better
Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can’t quite admit her mother’s alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane’s best friend.
Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty–is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture.
Jane McAllister has been making excuses and enabling her alcoholic mother for years, but it isn’t until her mother drives drunk and causes a bad accident that she decides to escape from her mother’s problems, at least for the summer. She accepts an offer from her brother Ethan to join him working with the Torbros, chasing tornados.
In 2005, an F3 tornado passed about three miles north of my house, hitting the tip of the city and taking out about forty-five houses. Like 80% of the other morons around (judging by the amount of video and imagery available online) I was outside watching the storm as it developed. I can safely say it scared the desire to eat chocolate for a week out of me and I won’t be doing it again. It takes a certain kind of dedication to the science or just a wild-eyed craziness to actually go after one of those things. I loved that Zielin made The Waiting Sky about the storms but also the teams, the competitiveness, helping in the aftermath, the nights out, the buffet breakfasts and the gossipy infighting. I felt like I knew where I was with these guys until the radio went off and they started tracking a storm and the story became new again. Even while the sensible part of my brain was telling me storms=bad, I was excited too.
Jane is fairly indifferent to the whole storm chasing thing although she loves taking photographs of the turbulent weather. Ethan left her with her mother a few years ago and ended up doing this, but she’s only with him because she has no place else to be and she doesn’t really connect well with the rest of the Torbros. I thought she felt fragile, like she was approaching that place where she was going to be done with all of them but she didn’t know it yet. I wanted to stay mad at her for believing in her mother but I wondered how far I’d go if I were seventeen and dependent on one parent. While on some downtime between storms, she meets Max, an intern for another flashy team. He’s everything that she’s not, which was a little irritating. Did he have to be so perfect, in a perfect life, a perfect home? I liked that they were just left as normal teenagers dating a little bit. No insta-love, no rushing into I’ll-drop-my-family-and-be-with-you. There was enough drama to make them interesting, not enough to overwhelm the story.
The Torbros team has a worsening problem with co-founder Vincent, whose snarly anti-social behavior jeopardizes their funding. He flips out when his brother gets in a “whose is bigger” taunting match with the competing storm chasing team that Max is on and bets the schematics of Vincent’s data-collecting machine against a year’s worth of television coverage with a weather channel crew. I didn’t like Victor at first but he has a powerful story and as it came out, I loved him and the odd relationship he had with Jane. His experience with PTSD and the decisions he made were beautifully written and in a book with so much potential for weepy places, his story was the one that had me misty-eyed.
I liked Ethan and I thought his relationship with Jane was played well. I had to remind myself of how old he was when thinking about when he left their house and Jane alone with their awful mother. I loved when he gave Jane an analogy about their home before and his choice to chase tornados. It made him less perfect, more of a guy who hadn’t come out of their house unscathed. He wanted to save Jane but it was obvious by the end how much he loved her. He was pretty much the crush-worthy one in this book (sorry Max).
My Summary: I wasn’t expecting that much out of this book, I’m a little embarrassed to admit. It looked good, but it was sort of short. Zierin showed me just how much punch she could pack into a small package though, making The Waiting Sky a surprisingly powerful, emotional read. The drama of tornado chasers is a perfect story to tell opposite that of an out of control alcoholic tearing apart a family, but Zierin never gets heavy-handed drawing comparisons. Small, supportive side stories only enhance the story, never taking anything away from Jane’s personal struggle. This is one of the better books I’ve read in a while – not too long, not too short, has great characters and an interesting story that goes down smoothly. It’s a very nice summer read.