Elissa Nadworny

The plots of dystopian novels can be amazing. A group of teens in Holland, Mich., tells me about some of their favorites:

In Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Love is considered a disease. Characters get a vaccine for it. In Marissa Meyer's Renegades, the collapse of society has left only a small group of humans with extraordinary abilities. They work to establish justice and peace in their new world.

It's no secret that we've had a rough fall and winter with natural disasters. Even as we write this, fires burn in Southern California, adding to the previous wildfires in the northern part of the state that burned over 245,000 acres in October.

Hurricanes Irma and Harvey devastated communities across Florida and Texas, while touching communities in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Louisiana.

Yerianne Roldán wants to be a graphic designer, or maybe a writer, or maybe both. Her good friend and classmate, Zuleyka Avila, has already made up her mind. She's going to be a pediatrician.

Those plans hit a bump in the road this fall, though, when Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, where both girls lived with their families. Forced to leave the island — much of which is still without power — they've both relocated to Orlando.

Antonio Santini was willing to do anything — as long he got to Puerto Rico. He'd be a perfect asset for the U.S. Army's Hurricane Maria mission: He spoke Spanish and he knew the terrain. The sergeant first class had been all over the world with the military — Germany, Peru, Qatar, Afghanistan — but this mission, to an island devastated by a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds, was "deeply personal."

*****

It's not exactly how Deilanis Santana planned to spend her 13th birthday: waking up before dawn, packing up her life – and heading to Connecticut to live with her grandma.

But here she is at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, three weeks after Hurricane Maria, waiting anxiously like many other Puerto Ricans for flights to destinations like Miami, Philadelphia, and other cities. The gates are crowded with children — Deilanis among them — leaving their homes, and sometimes their families, to live in the U.S. mainland and go to school.

Pages