I met author Taya Okerlund last summer at a conference (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, charmingly abbreviated to WIFYR. I'm kind of kicking myself for not registering again, because it was fabulous last summer). We were in a week-long workshop together, and she brought the first twenty pages of her manuscript, HURRICANE COLTRANE.
I told her I kind of got a crush on her main character Merrill from those 20 pages.
AND NOW IT'S A BOOK! With a gorgeous cover. See:
And I got to read an advanced copy! I started last night and had to finish because it was so delightful. Hurricane Coltrane is set in Hurricane, Utah (pronounced 'Hurricun,' I understand, although I think I'll ignore that because I prefer having it rhyme with 'Coltrane'). Merrill (my crush) is a smarty-pants high schooler with an activist mom and a peaches-dehydrating grandma and no known father, and he is dying to get out of town.
He meets Robbie, a buttoned-up kid who's escaped from the nearby polygamist compound. And who is also a musical genius.
These two plot together, get Robbie an alto sax, and land Robbie a spot on an X-Factor type of reality show. Merrill even gets to play his trombone as backup. But Robbie's mom and sisters are suffering back on the compound because Robbie got out, and Merrill's starting to unravel the mystery of who his father might be--and whether that means he'll never break out of Hurricane, Utah.
I have a soft spot for friendship stories, because that's such a huge part of high school and is something I don't see in books as much as I'd like. Merrill and Robbie have an unlikely friendship, and they both have to navigate the social waters of high school.
I really, really loved the setting for this story. I've never been to southern Utah, so diving into the peach harvesting and pomegranate dehydrating and the Mormon community and the polygamist compound and the heat and the small-town vibe was fun.
And Merrill is just as charming throughout the book as he was in those first 20 pages.
And, since I love deals almost as much as I love books, here's one for you: Hurricane Coltrane releases in a couple of weeks, but until then the Kindle version is on sale for $1.99.
Happy reading! And congratulations to Taya.