Storm

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Storm Book Poster Image
Teen Ark stowaway tale rife with sexual tension, ape sex.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers familiar with the biblical version of the Noah's Ark tale will be intrigued by author Napoli's inventive take on the material compared with the original, a subject that may spark some interesting discussions. For those who don't know the original and want to learn more, notes at the back offer details of different cultures' flood myths and the scriptural passages that relate to each section of Storm. In following Sebah's adventures, readers also will glean information about agriculture, animal care, and survival tips.

Positive Messages

Besides a strong message of survival and life affirmation, Storm teaches the importance of never giving up, nurturing love and friendship, and learning to give and receive help, which often comes from the unlikeliest of places. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sebah is determined, resourceful, a born survivor who adapts quickly to new situations. She's brave and creative in protecting her loved ones and cooperating with others. Biblical characters, particularly Noah and his family, are complex characters with real failings, from sibling rivalry to lust for other men's wives, and it's often unclear whether Noah is a dedicated holy man or completely insane. Despite the tensions, they find ways to survive and help one another. 

Violence

The story opens with Sebah's description of how a rape victim had her tongue cut out so she couldn't tell what had happened to her and how, since then, other girls just keep silent. Untold thousands of people perish in the flood, including Sebah's family, and their distress is vividly described. Sebah and her companions kill animals, including cute babies, to survive, and witness the needless death of others, including a baby whale that dies in a fishing net. Sebah lives with the constant threat of being thrown overboard if she's discovered. Aban, who becomes her husband, initially strikes her and treats her badly, but their relationship improves.

Sex

Humans (including Sebah and two different men) have sex (or "mate," in Sebah's term) often, but there's little detail. Animal sex, especially between bonobos Queen and The Male, is constant, gleeful, and explicit: "Queen licks The Male's chest. She doesn't glance at the woman, not even quickly. She moves her head lower down The Male's torso, licking, licking. The Male makes a loud moan. Ham's wife gasps and covers her mouth." Noah has forbidden any sex on the Ark, causing much tension and strife. Sebah worries about how her menstrual periods will affect the oversexed Male, and in one scene an animal explores her nipple. One human character is pregnant.

Language

Noah's sons regularly call one another "jerk" and "moron." Characters use "s--t" and other terms in referring to the plentiful excrement on the Ark.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Noah's sons describe their father as "drunk out of his mind" at a gathering where all of them were drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Donna Jo Napoli's Storm mixes the inventive premise of a teen stowaway on Noah's Ark with front-and-center animal sex, more discreet sex between humans, and corrosive sexual tension among Noah's sons and their wives because the patriarch demands that they remain celibate for the voyage. There's some strong language, especially "s--t," as the Ark's denizens produce lots of excrement. Readers may be startled to find Noah's sons calling one another "jerk" and "moron." Sebah is a strong character and a born survivor, able to adapt to fast-changing circumstances and determined to protect her loved ones. The overall message is positive and life-affirming, and readers who know the original account will enjoy the biblical references. But some of them, or their parents, may have issues with the lurid detail.

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What's the story?

Sixteen-year-old Sebah is a Canaanite farm girl who lives happily with her family until the rain starts falling, bringing floods that wipe out everyone and everything. Fleeing to high ground in the STORM, she forms an uneasy connection with a boy her age, and together they build a raft. After days at sea, they come upon a gigantic boat, but only Sebah has the strength to climb aboard. There she finds herself surrounded by strange creatures, including an amorous pair of bonobos who befriend her and help keep her safe as she discovers that the other humans on board, Noah and his family, have no place in their plan for any extra people.

Is it any good?

Most of this story takes place in the close confines of the Ark, and the claustrophobic, helpless frustration is reflected in the sometimes slow-moving plot. Best-selling author Donna Jo Napoli has made a career from complex, deeply researched retellings of myths, fairy tales, and historic events. Here, she uses the story of Noah's Ark to examine life, death, and unintended consequences. From survival techniques to ancient social customs, there's a lot of interesting detail along the way. 

Sex, and sexual tension, are nearly constant, especially between the two bonobos that befriend Sebah: "I'm no stranger to animal mating -- no country girl is. But this mating is different; Queen and The Male mate at any excuse....They are entirely delighted with mating. Aban might have liked The Male; he looked at mating the same way."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about flood stories. Why do you think so many cultures over the centuries have had stories about apocalyptic floods -- and why do people today still find them compelling?

  • What do you think of the ethics of saving a chosen few and letting everyone else perish? Do you think the rules change when there's a crisis?

  • How has life improved for girls since Sebah's time? How has it stayed the same or gotten worse?

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