Monday, January 26, 2009

Review: Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison

Book: Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison

Genre: YA Romance

Rating: A

For: Fun!

Awhile back, I read a review on Susan's Bloggin 'Bout Books blog for this book, Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison, which will be released in March of this year. It sounded like one I would love, so I followed her directions to request it from the author.

Within in a few weeks, I had the book in hand and it didn't take long for me to move it to the top of the stack. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down and had it read in just a few hours.

This is the love story between Michael and Leesie, told completely through Michael's diary (actually his dive log,) Leesie's poems and Internet chat sessions between Leesie and her friend, and later with Michael too. I loved this unique way of telling their story because we get both their points of view for the same event. It allows us, the readers, to be in both their heads in a big big way.

Because of this, it's a deeply emotional story. Intensely emotional in fact. And you know I love that!

We first meet Michael as a cocky teenager, confident in his amazing SCUBA diving ability and his prowess with the girls. He especially thrives on the adrenaline rush of free diving. What a scary concept! But then, there's a storm and a terrible accident, the details of which I won't go into here. But, he ends up starting a new life with his grandma, which includes going to a new school.

There he meets Leesie, a good conservative Mormon farm girl who has plans to go to BYU after graduation. What follows is the story of Michael's struggle to heal, and Leesie's struggle with her beliefs, and how they both need each other in an intensely passionate way. There's much kissing and "making out" going on in this book! Yet at the same time I'm happy to report that it stays quite clean! Though it is quite a bit more steamy than your typical LDS romance, that's for sure.

My 17 year old daughter, JJ, also read the book, because it is her favorite genre after all! Here's what she had to say:

I liked this book because it was so deep. You really felt the emotions of the characters, and sympathized with how they were feeling-- All the pressure of doing what's right, but yearning for what you want at the same time. The way it was written, with the dive log, the poetry and the chats made it more interesting, you could see things from different points of view. I also liked hearing Michael's side of things because I haven't read many romances told through the guy's eyes. Also, I really enjoyed the poetry that Leesie wrote, it seemed to capture the hard, emotional things she was going through with only a few words. However, the ending left me hanging and I'm excited to read more.

The author of this fun book is
Angela Morrison. And she says there will be more about Michael and Leesie if things go well with the first book. To sum up her life story, she grew up in Washington State, went to BYU, got married, had four kids then decided it was time to write. After quite the interesting story, this, her first book, was born. To add to the excitement, for the past year or so, she has been living in Switzerland and Singapore where her husband has been teaching.

I was lucky enough to being able to connect with Angela by email and ask her a couple of questions:

** I wondered the whole time why Michael didn't capitalize his I's... just a personality thing? Or some other reason? Or maybe I missed something else.

Michael's small i's are an artsy poet thing. After the storm, he doesn't feel like a whole person . . . the small i's symbolize that. He capitalizes them in his first dive log before the storm and the last dive log when he goes to see Leesie again. I was afraid an editor would make me capitalize all the small i's. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get Word to leave them alone. But I was blessed with an editor who is a poet herself and loved the poetic devises I used.

** I searched your site to see if you talk about going diving, which of course, you do. But, have you done free diving like Michael? If so, my husband says "you're crazy!"
Free diving is so cool, but it is kind of crazy. I'd read about free diving before I wrote TAKEN BY STORM, but never done it--give me that friendly tank of nitrox on my back thank you. When I decided Michael would survive the accident because of his breathholding ability, I realized I needed to find out more about free diving. I talked my husband into taking a certification course in Grand Cayman at DiveTech--where they have huge freediving competitions and people break world records and stuff like that.
I was awful--the giant fins were just too big for me to kick up over my head and I get nervous if I have to hold my breath. My husband, who didn't want to take the course in the first place, was great.
We did all our training and then we swam out to the reef. Our instructor dove first--effortless, a dancer in the water, he elegantly fell to the bottom, hung out a few moments, and then rejoined us on the surface. I made it down 25 feet so I passed the course. My husband, not to be outdone by the young fit instructor with impossibly long, dark eyelashes, dove all the way to the bottom, too. Fifty-five feet deep on his first real free dive. His lips were purple by the time he made it back to the surface! Ah, the things we do for love. At least, I learned enough to get the free diving scenes accurate.

I just heard from a reviewer who was quite upset that I portrayed Michael hyperventilating. She was worried teens would read it and try it and drown. Free diver's don't hyperventilate. It's deep breathing--like yoga. I hope that's clear with how I portrayed it. That is one thing that I really enjoyed about the certification course, learning the deep breathing techniques. I get migraines and use it all the time now to get through an aura without freaking out and . . . hyperventilating. I need to make it clear, though, that free diving is as crazy, dangerous as your husband thinks it is and you can't do it without the proper training and spotters.
** Tell me about Switzerland and Singapore. THAT sounds like an adventure for a book!

Switzerland is SO beautiful. Living there ruined traveling elsewhere in Europe for us. We'd go to London, Paris, Spain, even the Riviera and say, "This isn't as pretty as my drive on the Autoroute to take the kids to school every day." We lived Lausanne, in the French canton of Vaud, along Lake Geneva. I could see the Alps across the lake from my attic studio window. I lived just up the highway from the Chateau du Chillon--my favorite castle in Europe. The biggest challenge for me was speaking French. I can fake it much better now, but it's still faking it. I loved the people, though--especially the church members we really got to know. I didn't find the Swiss cold at all. These people were lovely and warm and took us into their hearts and homes.

Living in Lausanne is literally turning into an adventure for a book. My next novel for Razorbill, SING ME TO SLEEP, is about an ugly duckling singer who gets made over by her choir friends when she lands the solo spot. They go to Lausanne to compete in the Choral Olympics and a mysterious hot guy from another choir puts the moves on her. When she gets home she's torn between this boy whose changed the way she view herself forever and the boy back home who has always loved her. It's a heartbreaker, this one. I've revising it now. It will be out next year about this time.

Singapore is a big Asian city. If you have to live in a big Asian city, this is the one to choose. It's clean, safe, and green--hot and humid all the time. I have to confess--I'm such an American. We don't have a car here and have to take taxis when we go anywhere. I so miss my Honda. The cheap airlines here are great, though. I've been able to do some travel--Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Phukett, Bangkok--that will make it's way into my next novel about Leesie and Michael, UNBROKEN CONNECTION (if I can convince Razorbill to sign it which will all depend on TAKEN BY STORM sales).

** Did you stick the "Mormon angle" in just because that's what you know? Or because you want to clear up misconceptions? Or tell people about the church? Or no reason at all?
(I found it very fun and refreshing by the way, and not too "in your face." The description of Sacrament meeting was great!)

My inspiration for this novel was all the young women I'd had in my seminary classes over the years who live what Leesie lives in the novel, but LDS readers weren't my first audience. TAKEN BY STORM was my creative thesis for my MFA at Vermont College, so I had to craft a novel anyone could pick up and sink into.

Getting the balance right was tough. That Sacrament Meeting scene is a good example. The first draft I wrote was of the perfect sacrament meeting, not a shirt tail or hair out of place. I read it, thought back to my experience growing up in a branch, and realized I needed to get real. Michael's outsider point of view helped a lot with that.

I ended up writing my critical thesis about how important it is to base your art in belief and how not to let your belief sidetrack your art into propaganda. I learned that the old, "write what you know," adage is true, but needs some revision. I say, write what you know, what you believe, what you need to know, what you've just learned and are jazzed about, what you miss so much it makes you ache.

I didn't set out to write about "the Mormon angle." I didn't even set out to write a young adult novel. I wanted to write for middle grade audience so I didn't have to deal with steamy issues. But this is the story the Lord sent me. I baulked and whined and struggled. It took me forever to get it right and then another forever to find an editor and a publisher who would take a chance on a faithful LDS character. The Lord got His way, though. I should have known. He usually does. I'm grateful to be a tool in His hand. And whether He wants LDS young women to read it and learn from Leesie's troubles or those not of our faith get a glimpse of Mormon realities--I don't know. All I do know is He wouldn't let me give up. He's usually like that, too.

Love those answers! And I love that I was able to read this book and discover yet another new favorite author. Here's to many more books to come!



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