Book Review

Book Review: The Tornado Chasers by Ross Montgomery.

TornadoChasersWhen Owen Underwood’s family move to Barrow, it’s because there’s nowhere safer in the Valleys – and safety is very important. Especially when the threat of tornadoes, and giant bears, is constant.

But in Barrow, safety is taken to extremes. Children have to wear bright yellow at all times and are never allowed outside except to go to school. How can Owen face an entire summer of that?

In secret, Owen and his friends form the Tornado Chasers. Their mission: to get as close to a Grade 5 tornado as possible. It’s time for them to face their fears!

And then… And then…

The second hilarious, thought-provoking, highly original book from an extraordinary young talent – you’ve never read a novel like it!

The first couple of chapters of this book quickly draw you into the somewhat unusual version of our world that provides its setting. It feels like a world where health and safety fears really have taken over – every element of life in the small town of Barrow is governed by a risk averse attitude. I was immediately drawn into Owen’s story, feeling very sorry for him and the new friends he was making as the impact of all of the safety rules became increasingly clear.

The book very much feels like it’s a cautionary tale, we all know the age old wisdom that the more you tell someone they can’t have or do something the more they want to do exactly the opposite. It’s no wonder therefore that Owen and his friends come together with a wish to rebel and to go and chase one of the tornados responsible for so many of the restrictions placed upon them.

The description of this book as hilarious, thought-provoking, highly original is spot on. There were definite laugh out loud moments but there were just as many, if not more, moments that left the reader with something to think about. Considering perceptions is a real theme running throughout the book – there are characters that are being seen one, perhaps flawed, way by the characters but we the reader can perhaps see them a little more clearly as we’re seeing them from a distance.

Owen’s group of friends are a wonderfully mixed bunch, seeing how they come together in spite of their differences was lovely. Their first meeting in particular was brilliant, I found myself thinking back to the wonderful groups from the many Enid Blyton books I read as a child. I liked as well the way that the group of characters included a person of colour and person with a disability without either of these things defining the character – something I hope we’re going to be seeing more and more of in children’s literature.

There are some pretty big twists and turns as the book progresses, a couple of times I was pleasantly surprised by the direction that the book took. The ending left me thinking for a long time, I’ll certainly be interested to hear how younger readers get on with it. I do think it’s a very fitting ending but I also think it’s likely to be one that might need some discussion – I imagine like anything this will vary from reader to reader but is worth considering if you’re giving the book to someone.

I haven’t read Ross Montgomery’s first book Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door but on the strength of this book it’s definitely earned a place on my books to read list.

The Tornado Chasers is published by Faber Children’s Books. Whilst I was provided with a copy of the book by the publisher all opinions expressed are my own.

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