Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Review: Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

Title: Watch the Sky
Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Target Age Group: MG
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Book Description (from inside cover)

Jory's stepfather, Caleb, says: Red leaves in the springtime. Pages torn from a library book. All the fish in an aquarium facing the same way. A cracked egg with twin yolks. Everywhere and anywhere. And because of them Jory's life is far from ordinary. He must follow a very specific set of rules: don't trust anyone outside the family, have your work boots at the ready just in case, and always, always watch out for the signs. The end is coming, and they must be prepared.

School is Jory's only escape from Caleb's tight grasp, and with the help of new friends Jory begins to explore a world beyond his family's farm. As Jory's friendships grow, Caleb notifies Jory's mother and siblings that the time has come for final preparations.

They begin and exhausting schedule, digging a mysterious tunnel in anticipation of the disaster. But as the hole gets deeper, so does the family's doubt about whether Caleb's prophesy is true. When the stark reality of his stepfather's plans becomes clear, Jory must choose between living his own life or following Caleb, shutting his eyes to the bright world he's just begun to see.

My Review

This book was acquired from Book Expo America 2015. Many thanks to BEA and to the author for the opportunity to review it.

This book was endlessly fascinating to read. The feeling I got while reading it was probably much similar to Jory's as the story progresses. Jory's family is digging a shelter to survive some coming catastrophe his stepfather insists is coming, and yet I felt much like Jory did - claustrophobic. Especially because, in contrast to what Caleb suggests is the best practice, to keep to themselves, not attract attention, and to trust no one, Jory begins to reach out to others and discovers that the rest of the world is not as scary as Caleb portrays it to be. Jory begins to LIVE for the first time in his life, and it makes his life at home (and my feelings as a reader) even more claustrophobic as the "end" that Caleb describes comes closer. 

This story is more like a psychological suspense/thriller than anything else, which I don't see often in MG fiction. It's not necessarily the crisis that's the main issue in this book, although it's the dark cloud that hangs over Jory's head that makes up part of the actual conflict. It took me a while to realize this: The theme of "Is it really worth living your life in fear and to be safe than it is to live your life to the fullest?" that's the main conflict in the story. It's the battle in Jory's brain - live in fear or live your life. The physical manifestation of the "live in fear and be safe" is Caleb, and on the other side are Jory's new school friends, who are the "live your life to the fullest" manifestations.

The wild card in the story is Jory's sister Kit, who I find most fascinating of all the characters in the story. She represents both sides of Jory's internal struggle. Her appearance is very mysterious. She appeared one day out of nowhere in the family pumpkin patch. Her very existence suggests that Caleb's views may be true - there are truly signs that warn of some coming disaster. And yet, Kit is different than everyone else in the family. She enjoys life to the fullest, even inside the artificial boundaries of Caleb's artificial world he's built around the family. She challenges Jory to see outside that world as well, and I'd venture that she's really the first catalyst that pushes Jory to realize there's a whole life out there to live outside his current life of fear and preparation. One of Caleb's warnings - to watch the sky for trouble - Kit takes and turns on its head. She makes Jory see the wonders in the sky, so that Jory both simultaneous fears AND is fascinated by them.

My recommendation: Excellent read. Highly recommended.

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