Tornado Brain

by Cat Patrick

“Collette went missing on the second Friday in April almost at the end of seventh grade. It was seven and a half years after the tornado in kindergarten, and Collette and I hadn’t been friends anymore for two months.

Before any of us knew she was missing it was a normal morning. My mom appeared in my doorway at six thirty. Opening my eyes and seeing a person in the doorway made my heart jump.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A

Tornado Brain is part mystery, part realistic fiction, part coming of age story, but I appreciated the whole thing. Focusing on thirteen-year-old Frankie (a tween on the autism spectrum), the story begins with Collette’s disappearance. The portrayal of adolescent friendships is so realistic, and I loved how Frankie was determined to muddle her way through a world that frequently misunderstood her, and make sense of it all by comparing people to tornadoes.

The ending was completely not what I expected, but somehow Cat Patrick made it all work. The characters are so realistic, and the frustration Frankie often feels at not being able to share with others the way she sees and feels the world is palpable. Rather than focusing on any sort of difference, though, Tornado Brain focuses on the exceptional gifts of Frankie as she works to put the pieces of Collette’s disappearance together.

I felt that this book was incredibly touching and sweet. Yes, there were definitely moments of suspense, but the bond that forms between Frankie and Kai, and the honesty that draws Frankie and Tess closer hooked me as a reader just as much as Collette’s disappearance. Additionally, while the story revolves around a tween, this book is a perfect fit for any adolescent trying to find their place in the world while often feeling misunderstood. An added bonus was the setting of this book – Long Beach, Washington is a few hours away and the author took the time to add a lot of local color to the story!

Movie Rating: PG

Tornado Brain is absolutely age appropriate for middle-grade and high school readers. There was no noticeable swearing and there were no inappropriate scenes. Frankie explains how Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD impact her daily life and make her feel in a way that is approachable – readers will not need to know medical jargon or have done research to understand Frankie or the way she sees the world.

There is a fairly dramatic event that occurs and bumps this rating up from a G – the author handles the unexpected with grace and tact and allows Frankie to digest the situation in a way that is entirely suitable for younger readers, but is realistic enough that it does not diminish a difficult situation. Overall, this book handles multiple complex issues in a sophisticated way and is a thought-provoking read.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes

This book is a great read for so many reasons. It is approachable to fans of realistic fiction, coming-of-age stories, and YA mysteries. It is a magnificent example of a girl who is misunderstood by the world, but is determined to forge her own path, yet this book will appeal to boys and girls. Frankie is idiosyncratic and irreverent, and watching her put together the pieces of Collette’s disappearance is admirable and touching. I love that this book has some local flair (given my location in the PNW), but students of all stripes and locations will like this story. I am so excited for my readers to get this in their hands.


Thirteen-year-old Frankie is obsessed with tornadoes and has a twin and is on the autism spectrum. That is all you need to know about her. She definitely is not friends with Collette because two months ago, everything changed. Frankie doesn’t get along with everyone like her twin sister, Tess, does, but she doesn’t say “sorry” as much as Tess, either, so that has to count for something. Even though it is a struggle to get through the day and remember everything her therapist tells her to (about social interactions and ending text conversations properly and all the other thing Gabe reminds her of), when she learns that Collette has vanished, she has a single-minded focus to find her former friend, especially when she learns that she was the last person to see Collette.

With a determined, brilliant, and quirky narrator, Tornado Brain tells the story of one girl’s search to make things right and the bonds she forges while doing so. You will find it hard not to root for Frankie as she searches for Collette and cheer her on as she and Tess come to understand each other a bit more. Cleverly written with unexpected twists, Tornado Brain is a true gem.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. What are some of the things that annoy or irritate Frankie?
  2. How are Frankie and Tess similar and different? What was their relationship with Collette like?
  3. What does Frankie realize about Fred? What does she suspect about Collette’s plan?
  4. What does Frankie find from Collette that gives her clues as to what might have happened to her (former) friend?
  5. How does Frankie’s understanding of Kai change? What does she do at the end of the story that shows her growth and self-awareness?
  6. What happened to Collette? What does Frankie say to her?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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