As the school year turns toward the last few weeks, I notice it challenging to stay invested in books. Time is often short for reading, and I frequently abandon books. Not true with Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms. Katherine Rundell’s sophomore young adult novel, a twisting story centering on Will.
I loved how the author frames the protagonist, a child raised in the bush of Africa, half-wild and completely in love with everything about her life: her father, her friends, and the animals and experiences she stumbles intentionally into. Her mother had recently passed, and she and her father are discovering how to live life with just the two of them. Until her father falls in love with another woman (use that label lightly) and alters Will’s life forever. Will is sent away to a boarding school for girls in England, and every inch of her body and soul struggles there. Her wildness comes out more, and she is bullied and teased relentlessly. But who she is and how she negotiates this trial-filled time actually turns others toward her in surprising ways.
I found great yet quiet hope in this read. Rundell has a subtle and strong way of launching the reader into the life of her protagonist, and at times, I certainly was clear that I had had similar experiences like Will. But then the plot would change and I knew that indeed that her life was nothing like mine in any way. Some of this meandering between connection and unknown helped me concretely connect with the story, and I for sure would love to know more about Will later in her life. I will continue to seek out Rundell’s work. This one held onto me during a distracted time.