When a tornado watch is issued one Tuesday evening in June, twelve-year-old Dan Hatch and his best friend, Arthur, don't think much of it. After all, tornado warnings are a way of life during the summer in Grand Island, Nebraska. But soon enough, the wind begins to howl, and the lights and telephone stop working. Then the emergency siren starts to wail. Dan, his baby brother, and Arthur have only seconds to get to the basement before the monstrous twister is on top of them. Little do they know that even if they do survive the storm, their ordeal will have only just begun..
When a tornado warning goes into effect for the small town of Grand Island, Nebraska, twelve year old Dan Hatch and his best friend, Arthur, don't take it all that seriously... at least, not at first. They figure tornado warnings are not uncommon for the area and usually little to nothing scary comes of it, so all they'd have to do is plunk down to a movie and calmly wait it all out. Little did they know, this particular night would be one for the record books. In just a matter of hours, the citizens of Grand Island find themselves center stage in one scary story of survival against the elements.
The story opens retrospectively, with Dan recounting the events of that traumatic day that ended up killing four people and injuring nearly 140 more in the span of just three hours. Looking back, Dan remembers all the little things can could now be viewed as precursors to the coming disaster: the day turning nearly pitch black early on in the afternoon, phone lines beginning to malfunction, lights flickering. Arthur and Dan are hanging out at Dan's house, being typical young boys enjoying time away from school, when they are both soon separated from their families. With Dan's parents away checking on neighbors and other nearby family members, Dan and Arthur are left alone in the house with Dan's baby brother, Ryan. Once Dan realizes the storm is undeniably headed their way, he grabs his brother and everyone heads to the basement bathroom to huddle in the shower, hoping they survive the tornado passing over the house.
The boys survive, climb out of the house rubble to discover virtually the entire town has been leveled and they have no clue where any of the rest of their family members may be. They head out walking, hoping to run into someone. Before long, they run into Arthur's sister, Stacey. With one more in their group, the kids set out to try to locate their parents.
Set during the Carter administration era, this middle grade novel offers a steady amount of action for young readers, as well as plenty of heart. With the trauma of natural disaster now in their memory banks, these kids get a tough lesson in what really has true, deep, non-monetary value in life. The plot itself also provides a minimal, entry-level education on what hardships one can possibly expect after surviving a natural disaster.
I figured then that nothing else mattered. You can do without all kinds of things --- your house, your bike, your room, a whole city of people --- if you have the ones you love.
This story sounded vaguely familiar once I started reading it. A quick internet search reminded me that this had been given a film adaptation (by the same name) in the 90s and the story itself was loosely inspired by an actual event, also dubbed Night of the Twisters, when seven tornados actually did touch down in the town of Grand Island, Nebraska one night in the 1980s.