Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick tells the story of a girl experiencing and recovering from Hurricane Katrina. It is one of several books to come out in the past couple years that tell a similar story, but it is my favorite that I've read so far.
Reesie is enjoying the days leading up to her 13th birthday, but as the day draws closer her beloved city of New Orleans seems to be under the growing threat of Hurricane Katrina. Her mother wants them to leave. Her father doesn't believe in leaving the city due to chances of a little high wind. However, he agrees that maybe Reesie should leave her party with her aunt and uncle for Baton Rouge. But then her parents decide to cancel her birthday party. As the storm draws ever closer, Reesie is increasing danger. Her mother, a nurse, and her father, a policeman, are both at work leaving Reesie alone. She goes to a neighbor's house to wait out the storm. But there is no waiting out the water when the levy breaks and the Ninth Ward begins to flood. Fortunately Reesie and Miss Martine have the clear headed help of one their friends and are able to make it to the roof of the house. Rescued and taken to the Superdome, Reesie must try to find her mom and dad. Reuniting with her parents is just the first in a long series of steps to Reesie's finding her way back to a safe secure place.
Reesie is an easy heroine to like. She is so full of life and enthusiasm. She is artistic and creative, designing and making her own clothes. The Boone family is a close one. Her brother spends his hard earned summer money on new shoes for Reesie just before returning to college for the year. Her parents are loving and supportive and work hard for their kids. Reesie's friends and neighbors show a true sense of community too. Patrick does an excellent job of establishing multiple characters and their connections to each other in a short amount of pages while making them all feel real. Miss Martine is a particularly wonderful character who gives Reesei more than just a place to fell safe and not alone during a hurricane. (I want to read a book all about her younger years.)
I enjoyed getting to see the neighborhood through Reesie's eyes. Patrick does an excellent job of bringing all of New Orleans with its unique sights and culture to life while also establishing the neighborhood feel needed to make the story specific to the Ninth Ward work. I liked how the story developed and how it had that heightened rushed feel of an actual disaster. Characters develop relationships quickly and are just as quickly separated. The portrayal is realistic without being emotionally manipulative. There are emotions abounding in Finding Someplace but they feel organic to the story and characters. I also enjoyed how the ending showed the hard road to recovery but was full of hope for the future.
A quick read through of the synopsis makes this sound a lot like last year's Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere. It also centers around a protagonist surviving Katrina on her birthday. If I were told I had to choose one, I would choose Finding Someplace. The New Orleans Patrick presents feels more real and the characters just jumped off of the page for me. Finding Someplace is also shorter and easier to read, but covers far more. There is an actual real look at the recovery from the disaster, the psychological effects, and stress and strain both cause on a family unit.
Bonus: Unlike all the other Katrina books I've read there is no dog. Patrick is able to tell an emotional tale without throwing potential of animal death in there to strike fear in the hearts of her readers. Thank you, Ms. Patrick.
I read an ARC made available via Edelweiss by the publisher, Henry Holt & Co. (BYR). Finding Someplace is available August 4th.