I will try my hardest not to spoil the story, but sometimes I can't help it!
I’ve read many books in my life, but only one has made me cry actual tears. Written by Asha Bromfield, who also plays Melody in CW’s Riverdale and Zadie on Netflix’s Locke and Key, Hurricane Summer is a beautiful, moving coming-of-age story of Tilla, who finds herself while spending the summer away from home. I can honestly say that I didn’t plan on reading the book. I had seen it on the actress’s Instagram page and was completely captivated by the cover but I just wasn’t moved to read it. I saw it in Target (which is where I usually buy books that I don’t need), and something told me that I needed to buy it.
So the story follows Tilla, a Black Canadian girl who’s trying to get her father to love her. The problem is, he leaves their family every 6 months to go to his home country of Jamaica. When her mother tells her that she and her younger sister will be spending the summer in Jamaica she dreads the trip but jumps at the opportunity to find out why her father escaped to that country so much. She also seeks this trip as the final opportunity for her father to love her the way that she deserves. When she arrives in Jamaica, her plan is challenged by unruly evil aunties, cousins, both good and bad, and a first love that all calls her to realize the dangers of becoming a woman. These all lead up to a hurricane that is expected in Jamaica every year. While the story takes on the heavy topic of exploring unhealthy father-daughter dynamics, it also addresses colorism, racism, and sexual assault.
As the book continues, we explore the beautiful island of Jamaica while enduring the ugly of Tilla’s family as she's stuck with jealous aunts and drama-filled cousins that can't wait to see her fall to their own pleasures. We feel for Tilla as she is unable to accomplish her goal of connecting with her father because he leaves the island so often. The only insight she learns about him comes from other people as they look up to her father as an untouchable father figure. They even refer to him as Mass Tyson, “mass” being short for master. He's a savior to his family as he provides him with all they need and it's frustrating Tilla because he's a father to her to others but not to her.
She's also met with two love interests, one that becomes her escape and biggest conflict as he is an arranged marriage to the church to a cousin. The other is unwanted and forced upon her why the story. This subplot is pushed to the back burner and continues on because Tilla doesn't want to come off as rude. Towards the end, it becomes one of the driving forces in Tilla’s personal hurricane. Both of these cause me to feel even more for Tilla as she becomes entangled in drama and is pushed away from her goal of getting closer to her father.
The only saving grace in the story and the reason why I had hope for Tilla, was her sweet cousin Andre. He’s constantly mistreated by everyone in his family and is more of a worker rather than a family member. Tilla becomes being the only person who actually cares about Andre and sees him as more did his skin. While she never explains to him most of the things that she actually goes through, he always tells her exactly what she needs to hear.
The book has its ups and downs and as a reader, I often felt frustrated for Tilla as many saw her as what they wanted her to be versus who she actually was. Her cousins and aunts see her as a privileged, entitled “foreign gyal”. Others on the island for her as a rich foreigner who came here part-time while this was their whole life. She sees herself as a poor girl from Canada trying to enjoy the paradise of Jamaica while balancing everything that has worked against her since she arrived. In actuality, she is a young, lost girl who is working to find herself while working through past pain.
Aside from the plot of the book, its writing is beautiful and lyrical and as the story continues, I became attached to every word. Asha gives great detail when describing the country’s waterfalls and roads.
Overall, Hurricane Summer moved me in ways that no other book has. It has become one of my favorites as I was able to see myself in different parts of the story. I related to her as she felt overwhelmed as different parts of her life started to collapse. I felt her pain as she fought to be loved by someone close to her. I related to her as she found complete happiness in her cousin Andre and was able to confide in him.