I'm going to start this with the same statement I make every time I start a review for one of Marie's books. Marie is one of my oldest blogging friends, so if that makes my opinion a little less viable to you--and I totally understand if it does--there it is for you up front.
That said, Waiting For The Storm is not just good. It's very possibly the best thing that Marie has written yet. There are some really heavy issues going on here, but the characters handle these with style and grace, while still being human enough to warrant having their story told.
But there I go putting the horse before the cart. Let's actually go through this the way I would any other book, and I'll do my best to tell you why Waiting For The Storm should be at the top of any contemporary fan's must read list.
(Summary from GoodReads)
Charlotte O’Dell knows this summer is going to suck. Her beloved mother just died, her sister hates her, and her dad has completely checked out. Fulfilling her mother’s final wish, the family heads to Angel Island for the summer to stay in a beach house her mother once loved.
After a year of being shut away taking care of her mother, Charlotte is numb and practically afraid of her own shadow; she hopes going to the island will give her the time and space she needs to begin healing, and an opportunity to bring her family back together. When she meets her mysterious neighbor, Ezra, it doesn’t take long for Charlotte to confess the issues she’s developed. Ezra begins giving Charlotte assignments to get over her fears, and although she accepts his tasks, all she really wants is to be with him. When she’s with Ezra, she’s able to forget the hollow ache in her heart and the fact that her family is falling apart. But Ezra has secrets…
Can Charlotte pull what’s left of her family together, mend her broken heart, and allow herself to fall for Ezra? Or is it all just a storm waiting to happen?
Plot and character are generally a tightly woven net in contemporary fiction, and that is definitely the case with Waiting For The Storm. However, Marie's newest novel ads a hint of mystery as the reader--and Charlotte--get to know the book's hero, Ezra. I really liked this aspect of the story. It made an already excellent read really stand out in a way that I don't know if I've actually seen a contemporary do in quite this way before.
Returning from her previous work, and this is a great thing, is her talent for taking a general area that is (to me, since I live half an hour from Kingston) that is very familiar and seamlessly integrating something that is totally fictional. As with Riverview and Bellevue from her previous novels, Angel Island is a great setting which is a character in its own right. It plays just the right level of importance in the book--believable and memorable without taking the whole thing over.
I also think that a tasteful and insightful job was done in the way that Marie handled the key issue troubling Charlotte (the death of her mother). I felt Charlotte's shifting emotions throughout the entire book, but while I felt for her, what I felt never weighed me down and made me unable to read. It can be very hard to juggle something as heavy as this and not have it bog down the entire story, but that is just what happens here. Waiting For The Storm is a tale of healing every bit as much (and in my opinion moreso) then it is one of loss.
There is part of me that wants to say: "It's hard not to like the heroine in a novel by Marie Landry." But this does a disservice to both those fabulous heroines and to Marie's talent as an author, as it risks creating the assumption that her heroines are all 'the same'. If we are saying they are 'likable', or that 'I would like to be friends with them', that is true. But what makes these characters exceptional is that I can say all of this and yet need to make it clear: each of these ladies is very distinct.
Charlotte showed a great deal of depth throughout the novel, and grew (or regained) a great deal during her time on Angel Island. Marie did a great job at balancing a lot of aspects within one personality--making her likable, making her grief-driven emotions believable, making her progress as the story did in a way that made sense--and all of this really paid off, because Waiting For The Storm truly is Charlotte's story.
Likewise, Ezra is a memorable hero, both because of his charming personality--very earthy and real, yet definitely the kind of guy worth falling for--and the intriguing sense of mystery that surrounds his character. I think that was built up well and, like Charlotte, I constantly wanted to know more about him. This made for very compelling reading and a real 'can't put it down' factor that caused me to read the book in one sitting.
The rest of the cast was equally interesting without taking away from the couple. The depth and growth of Charlotte's sister, Ella, was especially well done. The situation with the girls' father was also very moving.
First, let me put your fears to rest: there's no insta-love here. I really liked how the relationship between Charlotte and Ezra progressed. It felt very natural and suited their personalities and the situations they found themselves in. I thought they had terrific chemistry together; a natural easy closeness that drew them together, with just enough spark to make it interesting.
I will say, however, that Charlotte's behavior at the story's climax did make me a little mad. The situation was very complex and interesting, and to be fair it says something when a reader's opinion of it could go either way. But really, Charlotte, I wanted to shake you! I'm not taking hearts away for this, just to be clear. It didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book and it wasn't a lack of talent on the part of the author. It was just a very interesting circumstance where the heroine and I parted ways for a little while and I kinda wanted to hug Ezra and go "There, there." *laughs*
And no, I'm not telling you what it is. Curious? Read the book. Trust me, it's fabulous.
Beautiful writing, memorable characters, and a well told story blend together to create something truly special. Waiting For The Storm has everything I love most about contemporary YA and more. I can't recommend this highly enough.