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Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum~★★★

Author: Jenna Blum
Title: The Stormchasers
Release Date: May 27, 2010
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "In her runaway bestseller, Those Who Save Us, Jenna Blum proved herself a master storyteller with brilliant insight into the spectrum of human emotions. Now, Blum turns her sights to the most intimate and mysterious of family relationships--that between twins--in this powerful and provocative second novel.
As a teenager, Karena Jorge had always been the one to look out for her twin brother, Charles, who suffers from bipolar disorder. But as Charles begins to refuse medication and his manic tendencies worsen, Karena finds herself caught between her loyalty to her brother and her fear for his life. Always obsessed with the weather--enraptured by its magical unpredictability that seems to mirror his own impulses--Charles starts chasing storms, and his behavior grows increasingly erratic...until a terrifying storm chase with Karena ends with deadly consequences, tearing the twins apart and changing their lives forever. 
Two decades later, Karena gets a call from a psychiatric ward in Wichita, Kansas, to come pick up her brother, whom she hasn't seen or spoken to for twenty years. She soon discovers that Charles has lied to the doctors, taken medication that could make him dangerously manic, and disappeared again. Having exhausted every resource to try and track him down, Karena realizes she has only one last chance of finding him: the storms. Wherever the tornadoes are, that's where he'll be. Karena joins a team of professional storm chasers--passionate adventurers who will transform her life and give her a chance at love and redemption--and embarks on an odyssey to find her brother before he reveals the violent secret from their past and does more damage to himself...or to someone else."

Taryn's Review: One pet peeve of mine is when book jackets differ from the covers, even in little ways. For example, this book is titled The Stormchasers, with "stormchaser" being all one word. Yet in the jacket blurb, they wrote it as storm chaser. Maybe both ways are correct, I don't know, but I like consistency! I don't blame Blum for that difference. However, another distraction for me was the main character's name. Karena Jorge sounds an awful lot like...Regina George, no? LOL, I know, it's silly, but it made me chuckle. 

Anyway, let's get to discussing this book. I was initially attracted to it because a few of my family members suffer from bipolar disorder and the illness is not an issue I've seen discussed in works of fiction. Charles was portrayed in the novel as an extreme version on the spectrum of Bipolar 1 Disorder (Karena stated that he is type 1); his disorder was accompanied by other symptoms that, from what I've read, aren't typical for those diagnosed with Bipolar 1. Charles suffered extensively from delusions and "voices" that spoke to through everyday encounters. He spoke about the dish towels, the news anchor, and storms all speaking to him and telling him to do things. It's not to say that psychosis can't happen, but it just needs pointed out that this is an extreme and severe side effect to either Bipolar disorders and that most people who are diagnosed never experience the degree of psychosis that Charles experienced. Oddly enough, at one point Charles mentioned that he had Cyclothymic Bipolar Disorder and compared it to the storms. While that analogy is interesting, from my own personal readings I had gathered that Cyclothymia was separate from Bipolar 1 and 2 as its own category of Bipolar disorder and that it was normally deemed the most "mild" of the versions that one could have. So, in short, I think it's important again to state that Blum had modeled Charles as a very extreme version of the disorder and as someone who clearly needed help. Sadly with most Bipolar cases, it isn't a clear-cut illness that others can recognize as a disorder.

Stepping away from the Bipolar discussion, I think Blum missed the mark on how to set this book up. When the climax of the book placed me at the height of awareness, the next page sank me into a flashback chapter and I let out an audible groan. The first chapters probably would have been better served to go back-and-forth between the present and the past to help the reader fully understand the love and tension that set the stage for that moment. It was a lost opportunity because when the actions of the climax finally played out, I felt too overwhelmed in all the flashback information to fully take in the depth of the reconnection. 

Overall, it was okay for me. Again, the set-up of the book left a lot to be desired and it felt very exhausting not because of Charles, but more because of the abundance of information suddenly thrown at the reader which instead could have been used as a building tool for the climax. I also think the "deadly consequence" of the twins' action was glossed over rather neatly at the end considering the severity of the issue. I would probably read Blum's book Those That Save Us based on the high praise I've seen online, but I can't say this is a book I'd read again or pass along to others. 

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