Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
Cyclone Book Poster Image
Emotional tale of girl's stroke recovery after coaster ride.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn about U.S. presidents, medical terms and occupations, and Spanish words and phrases.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about the bonds of family, communication, and empathy. It's important to express yourself and truly listen to others to feel connected.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nora initially seems selfish for blackmailing Riley but eventually develops a tool to help her family communicate with Riley. The family members have their arguments but are able to come together to support Riley. Sophie, a patient who shares a room with Riley at the hospital, understands Riley's Spanish and helps her communicate with her family. Jack, a kid Nora meets in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit), and Monica, the child life specialist at the hospital, help Nora and her family members process what they're feeling and understand where Riley is on her journey to recovery. 


Riley and Nora fight the night before Riley collapses after riding the Cyclone. There are several stressful moments in the ER and PICU that might overwhelm sensitive readers. Verbal fights between family members. Nora runs into traffic. Riley falls in the bathroom and smacks her head on the floor.


Nora calls Riley "boy crazy" and thinks she has a secret older boyfriend.


Characters repeatedly use "f-bomb," "s--t" "hell," "stupid," and "idiot."


Brands and celebrities mentioned include Nathan's Famous, Dunkin' Donuts, Discovery Channel, YouTube, Doctor Who, Taylor Swift, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character smokes. Another has had problems with drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the majority of Cyclone, the middle-grade debut of Doreen Cronin (the Click, Clack, Moo and Chicken Squad series) takes place in a hospital after a 13-year-old girl has a stroke moments after riding a rollercoaster. Her family learns from the doctors that she had an undiagnosed heart condition and might lose some of her verbal and motor skills when she wakes up from the coma. Complex medical terms and several medical professions are explained in a kid-friendly way through the main character's footnotes and drawings. Sensitive readers might be overwhelmed by the stressful yet relatable hospital scenes as members of the girl's family express their anger, confusion, frustration, and fear which sometimes happens through strong language including "f-bomb," "s--t" (written as "s--") "hell," and insults "stupid" and "idiot." However, this emotional story will teach kids about the powerful bonds of family and the importance of communication and empathy.

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old October 11, 2018

Coming-of-age story about family.

I loved this book! The main character, Nora, persuades her cousin, Riley, into coming on a roller coaster with her, which results in Riley having a stroke becau... Continue reading

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Nora's family vacation to Coney Island to ride the world famous CYCLONE rollercoaster was supposed to be the best part of her summer. Instead, it ends in tragedy when her 13-year-old cousin, Riley, has a stroke moments after they get off the ride. After Riley is rushed to the hospital and the family learns about her undiagnosed heart condition, Nora immediately feels guilty for blackmailing Riley into riding the rollercoaster and thinks it's her fault that Riley's in a coma. As Riley slowly begins to regain her verbal and motor skills, Nora and her family start to learn how to support each other as well as Riley on her journey to recovery.

Is it any good?

Doreen Cronin's touching middle-grade novel thoughtfully handles mature subjects such as illness, guilt, and family relationships in a kid-friendly way. The amount of strong language might surprise those familiar with her fun picture books, but it adds to Nora's realistic rollercoaster of emotions as she overcomes her fear and guilt before understanding how she can help her family. Nora's footnotes and drawings make it easy for kids to understand what's happening to Riley and what stage she's at in her journey to recovery. Everyone fights with their family at some point, but Cyclone shows kids that learning how to truly listen to others is just as important as expressing your feelings.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about books about serious medical conditions. Why do you think they're so popular? How do Nora and her family deal with Riley's illness? How do they work together? Has your family had difficulties? How have you pulled together?

  • Nora didn't want to go to the hospital after Riley's operation because she was afraid to hear bad news. Have you ever been afraid like that? How did you cope with your fear?

  • How do the characters demonstrate communication and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

Book details

  • Author: Doreen Cronin
  • Illustrator: Debra Sfetsios-Conover
  • Genre: Family Life
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Atheneum
  • Publication date: May 16, 2017
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 13
  • Number of pages: 352
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: December 4, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love books about families and illness

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