We Speak in Storms

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

We Speak in Storms is just lovely. Teens and tornadoes and ghosts and all the things that exist in the Midwest. The writing is stunning.
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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

The plot involves two tornadoes and the deaths and shattered lives the storms leave behind.   The resolution is peaceful acceptance.
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A small town suffered the loss of most of a generation of its young people when a tornado swept through through town in the 1960s.  Decades later on the anniversary of that tragedy another tornado hits the town.  The resulting mystery brings together three teen social misfits who learn to accept who they are.  One is a boy who has recently come out to his classmates, the other is a Hispanic girl from a poor single parent family, the third girl has isolated herself from her former friends and family as her mother slowly dies from cancer.
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CW: sexual assault, cancer, grief, loss, homophobia, cheating, and death of a parent

I received a finished copy from the publisher for an honest review!

If y’all like crying, this is the book for you. I’m not a huge crier with books – I’ll tear up, but I won’t sob – but I was crying. There were tears throughout the book. As I said, it is one of those books. Yet, it’s also a book that is so hard to explain and I know that this review is going to do its best to be collected and cohesive, but it’s probably going to fail at both those goals.

The book is basically about Mercer, a small midwestern town that has had tragedy strike far too many times. Fifty years ago, a tornado blew through the town, going straight through the drive-in movie theater that all the kids were at, killing quite a few of them. Fifty years later, things come back around. Another tornado hits where the drive-in once stood. No one was injured, but there were witnesses, living and dead.

The main characters in this are Callie, Joshua, and Brenna. Each of them have someone who visits them who isn’t who they say they are, trying to teach them something. Chapters are in the main three perspectives or the perspective of the dead. The dead are more omniscient and don’t have specific names. It reminded me of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. In Levithan’s book, the dead were gay men who died from AIDS. No one had a name, just they were all speaking together, wanting to show their legacy.

But, each character has something to learn and is going through, in short, a whole lot of shit. Callie’s mother is dying from cancer. It’s completely terminal and there’s nothing that can really be done. And she’s trying to come to terms with her mother’s death, pulling away from life and her old friends and trying to find anything that she can control. She has to look at death in its face and try to make sense of it all.

There’s Joshua who is gay in a small town. Gay and overweight. He has no friends. There’s no one like him in this town. His stepfather is very religious and doesn’t understand him, can’t even look him in the face. He’s bullied by old friends at school. He’s just trying to make it through each and every day, usually through drawing pictures.

Brenna is Mexican and, in this very white midwestern town, she’s the outsider. Even worse, people sex shame her. Her mother has had a parade of boyfriends, some good and some bad. Her boyfriend has dumped her for another girl. She only has the goths that she’s latched onto, although she has a passion for writing that has waned in the years.

And they all meet a member of Mercer’s history. Callie has Mrs. Vidal, an old woman who has had her husband and daughter die. Joshua has Luke, a gay man who wasn’t allowed to be who he was. Brenna has Dot, a young woman who was sexually abused as a child and has tried to move past that by throwing herself into singing.

All of them have something to teach each character. The dead are never really gone and we can be taught by the past if we just listen.

The character I connected with the most was Callie. I’ve been very open about my experiences, but it hit home for me because my sister passed away very suddenly from cancer. I didn’t have the chance to see her go like Callie did. It was so sudden that none of us had the chance to be with her except for our father. Reading Callie’s experiences, I literally cried because it captured how I felt and feel about my sister and what happened. There were so many things that I wanted to say but couldn’t because of the distance, the lack of time, and just because I didn’t know them until months later. It really hit me hard and, trust me, I cried quite a bit with her story.

Another thing tackled in this book is legacy. What is the legacy the dead will leave behind? Is it good? Is it bad? Is it both? Usually, it’s both. And the dead are able to show and see where they went wrong in life, what they would have done differently if they had a chance. And, they desperately wanted to impart what they learned on the living so they don’t make those same mistakes.

I just really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but, God, it was amazing. It blew me away and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a beautiful debut and I can’t wait to see what Lund writes next!
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This gripping and atmospheric novel is astonishingly beautiful and heartfelt. We Speak in Storms is a powerful story about learning to let go of the past and the pain and finding yourself in a world constantly filled with tragedy. It questions what really happens after a small town tragedy and how one devastation can make it hard for anyone to move on and let go.

Fifty years ago, a deadly tornado tore through the town’s drive-in movie theater and killed many people, wiping out a complete generation. Now in present time, another tornado touches down in the same spot the drive-in movie theater was, which not only leaves the living clearly shocked, but brings together three teenagers that run into a few of the Storm Spirits, the ghosts of those who died. And through this journey, this connection, each character starts to understand the power of the past and how it can hold someone down if they don’t let go of the things they can’t change.

Natalie Lund is an extraordinary author, with gorgeous prose and beautiful world building. Lund brings readers a strong and poignant debut. Anyone who reads We Speak in Storms can connect with one of the characters in some way; the main three characters are all relatable, but each in a different way. Brenna is learning how to navigate school now that she is back to being an outcast after her boyfriend breaks up with her. Joshua is learning to be himself in a town that is not too keen on acceptance. And Callie has to learn that you can’t change the inevitable and that you only have so much time on this Earth. The different stories intertwine with each other to create a stunning debut novel that will easily leave readers pondering on their life.

Told in multiple point of views, We Speak in Storms will grip you and show you what people are like after a devastating aftermath that wiped out a whole generation. But We Speak in Storms doesn’t just address the storm, but also what we, as humans, have to do years after the devastation and while facing new and unforeseen obstacles. These depictions and scenarios feel so real and heartbreaking that it’s difficult not to feel something for these characters. The emotions and sorrow leap off each page as if it was the reader experiencing those emotions. And that right there, to me, is something I look for in any book I read: an emotional connection to share with the characters and the story. And Lund did a phenomenal job connecting it all.

We Speak in Storms is a beautifully haunting yet realistic story. Natalie Lund has weaved an emotional tale of the living and the dead, and it’s a story I will recommend to everyone.
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Thanks to @netgalley and @philomelbooks for the advance Kindle@copy of this book. It is out TOMORROW! All opinions are my own.
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⭐️⭐️⭐️/5. On the fiftieth anniversary of the deadliest tornado in Mercer history, another one rolls through town. Three teens find themselves visited by the ghosts of those who died (or their loved ones died) that day. Each seems to attach to the teen who needs them the most, but what happens when it is time for them to go? I found the insane number of chapters tough (like 70+), and thought the story could have been more concise. I think high school readers will enjoy it though. Recommended for grades 9+.
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There was a bittersweetness in this story. There is an overhanging darkness- the historical part of the story focuses on a tragic tornado in the town's past that claimed the lives of many of its young people, and the present features three teens all dealing with big issues in their personal lives. The storm connects all of them, and the story follows the three teens as they learn more about the past storm, and begin to connect with each other. It has some elements that reminded me of A.S. King, but I preferred this story stylistically.
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We Speaks in Storms is a unique story about a small town crippled by grief in the wake of tragic hurricane that hit Mercer, Illinois on October 7, 1961.  Over 50 years later, another hurricane strikes in the exactly the same spot, on the same day of the year.  Three teens who don't feel like they fit anywhere, witness the aftermath of the current hurricane and begin hearing voices, whispers asking the kids to "save them." 

 Brenna is one of 5 students of color in Mercer High.  She's frustrated with people, even her friends, making assumptions about her based on the color of her skin and her Mexican ancestry.  Joshua bravely came out to the entire school at the beginning of the year, then promptly fainted.  He's used to not fitting in but now he's being completely ignored, treated like he's invisible.  Callie's mother has terminal cancer and is failing fast.  Callie tries to be brave and do what her mother needs her to do, but she's isolated herself from her friends and quit everything but track.  She doesn't want to add to her father's worries thus finds herself un-moored.  After the hurricane, the three teens find themselves getting together to talk about the voices and the strange happenings in town.  And things get even stranger.

Natalie Lund has written a spooky, yet very moving story about how we can learn many things from the past.  Brenna, Joshua, and Callie learn they are not as alone as they thought, and are able to help put some of the voices to rest.  Lund is a good writer, faithful to the language of teenagers.  The present day chapters are interspersed with conversations of the spirits of all the people killed in the 1961 hurricane - lending it a spooky, otherworldly tone.  Teens will love this!  It wasn't too graphic for middle-schoolers either. I'd recommend We Speak in Storms for anyone looking for a good ghost story.
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Decades to the day after a tornado decimated a small town, another storm strikes, causing several lives from the past and present to intersect in unexpected ways. I was not expecting the somewhat supernatural elements of this novel, and it came as a nice surprise to me. I felt the book presented the theme of acceptance well on several fronts.. Additionally, the emphasis on the way the past affects us even in the future will speak to students whose towns dwell on tradition. I hope some of my students enjoy this novel as much as I did this year.
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Voices from the past meld with present-day teens in this mystery thriller set in Western Illinois. Reminiscent of Ruckman’s “Night of the Twisters” but with some Mary Downing Hahn-like twists and turns, this book will keep teens interested from beginning to end. Older adults will enjoy the accurate details from the early 60s.
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We Speak in Storms tells the story of Callie, Brenna, and Joshua--three teens growing up in the small town of Mercer, where a tornado devastated the town 50 years ago. Each teen is struggling with their own issues, and the ghost spirits of Mercer intervene to help the three become friends.

An interesting book about a small town, prejudice, tornadoes, ghosts, and finding one's self.
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Three very different high school students that are struggling with major issues meet the skills that help find themselves. Supernatural mixes with the weather and guides these three to each other and to peace within themselves.
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Many times books labeled YA or teens easily cross over as adult fiction, and We Speak In Storms is one. Beautifully and lyrically written, with an unique premise, blending past and present, this is a book that will stay with me long after the last page read. 
50 years ago in Mercer  a tornado at the drive in claimed the lives of many of the towns teenagers. The town has never forgotten and their ghostly lore is taught to each new generation. On the anniversary of the storm in present day, a tornado touches down in the exact same spot changing the lives of three teenagers who for various reasons feel like outcasts in their own town. Banding together they discover something magical and how to open up. A beautiful book for every age.
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