“Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere”
by Julie T. Lamana.
Chronicle Books, 2014. $16.99
Armani can only think of one thing, her 10th birthday.
She’s been thinking about this birthday for a long time because she’s hitting the double digits and she’ll no longer be a little girl. She doesn’t even care about the storm that’s brewing, even though that’s all some people can think and talk about.
Then along comes Katrina, the hurricane to beat all hurricanes, and not only does it ruin her birthday party, but it changes her entire life. Armani no longer has the luxury of being self-centered. She has to grow up fast to help her family survive, stay together and find the ones they have lost.
She becomes so tired, scared and beat down, it’s hard for her to keep going, but she has to when she has to take on responsibilities no little girl should have to shoulder.
Lamana does a beautiful job portraying Armani and her close-knit family. My favorite scene (before the storm) is when Armani and Memaw sit on the porch swing in the evening after supper: “We weren’t talking or nothing — just swinging. My right foot was wrapped around her left foot, and it was like we were one big ol’ foot pushing down on that square of concrete. When the swing slowed down, we knew at the exact same minute that it was time to push again. The high-squeak, low-squeak, high-squeak, low-squeak sound of our rocking just made the feel-good feeling better. Being with Memaw was easy. …”
Reading this book was easy, too. I couldn’t put it down. Even though it’s labeled middle-grade, anyone above the age of 8 would be enthralled by Armani’s story, the story of a child who endures that which would be difficult for anyone of any age.
At times, Lamana’s writing is like poetry, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t written a well-plotted, edge-of-your-seat story.
Once the storm hits, it’s action, action, action. Who knows what will happen and where folks will end up. You’ll just have to read it and find out, but be sure to carve out a little chunk of time because you won’t be able to put it down, either.