Review by Alicia L’Archevêque
Orca Book Publishers, February 14th, 2023
120 pages. Paperback. $17.61 CAD. 9781459835238
9-12 years old, Grade 5-8
“I’m afraid that the truth, my truth
the one whistling in my heart,
will carry away my house and my family all at the same time.”
At its core, Like a Hurricane is a deeply empathetic read. Written by Jonathan Bécotte and translated by Jonathan Kaplansky, this book tells the poignant internal monologue of a young boy struggling to tell his loved ones that he is gay. As he navigates a dizzying journey of self-discovery, he seeks the love and acceptance that every queer child deserves. Told in verse, this book is reminiscent of a cohesive poetry collection, cleverly sprinkled with metaphors of storms and ‘broken’ weathervanes.
Our narrator’s heart has been plagued with tumultuous weather conditions, and he can’t bear to navigate this internal storm alone any longer. While he’d always felt different from the other boys, he’d never understood why. He eventually realizes that his best friend – a boy who gives him butterflies in his stomach – is at the centre of the emotional hurricane brewing within him. Equipped with this daunting clarity, he can’t hold his breath any longer. He courageously confides in his best friend, Zoé, and soon after, his loving parents. The narrator’s journey of self-acceptance is moving; it is one that invites readers to take a breath of relief in unison with him as he finds comfort and empowerment in the proclamation of his true self.
While this book’s prose form may be intimidating to new and experienced readers alike, the bold stylistic choice is rewarding. The poetic and visually striking writing was foreign to me, but I rapidly found that the deliberate placement, spacing, size, and fonts contributed beautifully to the plot. The layout of the pages adds another dimension to the story, such as certain lines being written in a circle to emulate the narrator’s confusion and emotional dizziness. For readers who feel equipped to take on a unique form, the visual components of this book are sure to elevate and emphasize the already poignant narration.
Jonathan Bécotte has approached a complex and highly personal experience with an endearing sense of childlike wonder. This is a story that not only retells the shared experiences of queer youth, but actively engages the reader in the emotional toll of coming out. Bécotte explores the uncertainty of childhood crushes and the suffocation of being outcasted with an age-appropriate and curious voice. This story offers a beacon of hope to its LGBTQ+ readers. It is proof that a difficult journey can lead to words of affirmation and unconditional acceptance from loved ones, and the ability to be a version of themselves that can breathe properly. For readers who don’t relate to the narrator’s experience, this story presents a wonderful opportunity to better empathize with those in their lives that do.
Young readers today are fortunate to have authors like Jonathan Bécotte. This is a story that I wish I could’ve read as a child – Bécotte’s exploration of an aspect of the queer experience is unapologetic and well-executed. As both a firm believer in the importance of queer representation in children’s literature and an admirer of beautiful writing, I would definitely recommend Like a Hurricane to young and mature readers alike.
Alicia L’Archevêque loves to write, talk about movies, dance with friends, and climb trees in good company. She is an art student at UBC and a swimmer on the school’s varsity team.