Brookline-based author tells the story of Hurricane Maria from beginning to end

Brookline-based author tells the story of Hurricane Maria from beginning to end
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While casting about for an idea for his second young adult novel, author Nick Courage turned to his youth. He didn’t land on a particularly fond memory, but one that caused no small amount of anxiousness when he was growing up in New Orleans: hurricanes.

Courage, who lives in Brookline and is a co-founder of the literary website Littsburgh, wanted to tell a story about a natural disaster from multiple locations and perspectives in his new YA novel, Storm Blown (Delacorte), which was published on July 16.

“In the United States, you hear a lot about New Orleans and the damage a hurricane does in the area the reporting is coming from,” says Courage. “But when I was growing up, you really didn’t hear about what was happening in the islands on its approach … I wanted to tell the story of a hurricane from beginning to end, the animals it affects, the people it affects, and how it brings people together.”

Storm Blown is set in Puerto Rico and Louisiana — eerily, Courage finished the story right before Hurricane Maria ravaged the U.S. territory in 2017 — and centers around Alejo and Emily, two pre-teens separated by the Gulf of Mexico, but bound by horrific circumstances. Both are torn from parents or caregivers during the storm.

As in his debut novel, The Loudness, Courage illustrates the natural resilience of young people when they are faced with daunting circumstances.

click to enlarge Nick Courage - PHOTO: RACHEL EKSTROM COURAGE
  • Photo: Rachel Ekstrom Courage
  • Nick Courage
“I realized after I finished Storm Blown that if you flipped them, Storm Blown could have been the prequel to the dystopian aftermath of The Loudness,” he says. “Kids literature, and all good literature, has that element of life and death. It’s so compelling. I don’t think I wanted to put kids in peril, but it’s just part of good children’s literature.”

Courage also wanted to show what happens to animals when hurricanes and other natural disasters strike. Storm Blown features a goose, a turtle, and a petrel (a tubed-nose seabird), but not just as background figures. Instead, Courage shows their fears, their anxieties, and their wounds.

“The storm was such a character already, it was just a matter of putting myself in that place with the goose (and the other animals) and describing what I saw,” Courage says.

Having witnessed firsthand the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina — his mother’s house was severely damaged in that storm — Courage remains struck by the images of Hurricane Maria. The fact that he finished the book while Puerto Rico was being devastated was an “unexpected and unfortunate coincidence,” but he hopes that beyond telling a good story, Storm Blown will serve another purpose.

“Now that it’s publishing, hopefully it will put the spotlight back on these places that are still affected by hurricanes,” Courage says.