Thursday, January 31, 2013


By Kim Askew and Amy Helmes
Merit Press  2012
181 pages     YA

Tempestuous is a delightful YA romp based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but the reader doesn’t have to know too much about The Tempest to enjoy Tempestuous. Miranda Prospero is a feisty take-charge type of teenager who through a series of misfortunes is stuck with an after school job at a mall food court in Minneapolis. She is feeling really sorry for herself when she arrives at work on a Saturday evening. The weather service has issued blizzard warnings, and Miranda knows that business will be slow. A student at an elite private high school, Miranda thinks that she is way better than all of the other public high school kids who work in the mall, including Ariel, a sweet girl sharing the shift with her. The other kids think she is as snooty as she thinks they are low lives.

The storm quickly causes the customers to empty out of the mall; the roads are closed, and some kids from Miranda's school as well as most of the workers are left stuck in the mall—shipwrecked as it were. But they are not alone; a masked robber is emptying the stores of their merchandise. Whoever he is poses a threat to the kids. Using all their resourcefulness, the mall kids entertain themselves, form new relationships, and thwart the robber. All’s well that ends well! (Oh, wait! That’s a different play!)

I had to go back and read a summary of The Tempest. It had been a lot of years since I had seen a production of the play.  The authors have used quotes to title the chapters, which is a nice touch. The characters in the book have similar names to the characters in the play. However, the father, who figures so prominently in the play, has no presence in the novel. Like most YA novels, parents and other adults play a small role in the action. There is a lot of humor, a bit of romance, a bit of mystery, and a lot of resourcefulness—all hallmarks of a good YA novel. Like all feisty heroines, Miranda is glib and a bit smart mouthed. She is also capable of change, which makes her a very appealing character to young readers. A teenage blogger wrote a delightful review of the book and gave it an A+--high praise indeed.

I especially appreciated that there was minimal bloodshed and minimal sex, making it appropriate for the younger end of the YA spectrum. A librarian or bookseller could feel confident putting it into the hands of a 12- or 13-year-old girl, yet it was clever enough that an older teenager (or even an old lady like me) could have a good time reading it. I plan to give it to my granddaughters. I think they will like it.

The blog of the writing team of Askew and Helmes: Their second book is Exposure, based on Macbeth. I think they’ve got a good thing going.

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