Book: Searching for Sky
Author: Jillian Cantor
Age Range: 12 and up
I picked up Searching for Sky to skim the first few pages, and couldn't put it down. It's not that it's action filled, but more that the premise and the narrator are irresistible. Fifteen-year-old Sky has lived for as long as she can remember (since she was 2) on a tiny Pacific island. She was raised by her mother, Petal, and her mother's partner, Helmut, along with Helmut's son, River. Since her mother and Helmut died a year earlier, Sky and River have lived alone on the island. Though they worry a little bit about survival, they are happy, and just starting to perhaps have grown-up feelings for one another. Everything changes when a boat arrives one day, and takes the two frightened teens to California. Back to a world that they didn't even really know existed.
There are mysteries in Searching for Sky, as Sky seeks to understand what led Petal and Helmut to the island in the first place. She struggles to reconcile her own memories with the things that other people tell her are true, and begins to realize that not everything was as she thought. She is separated from River, and wants desperately to find him. These issues kept me turning the pages, wanting to understand. Wanting Sky to understand. Wanting to know what would happen to Sky and to River. But the remarkable part of Searching for Sky actually lies in Sky's reaction to the more mundane details. It's fascinating to watch as someone who has never seen civilization tries to understand things like money, lipstick, and the Internet.
I thought that Cantor did a fine job of keeping Sky in character (frequently baffled), even as certain things become more clear to the reader. This is a book that could only have been written in first person present perspective. This aspect of the book reminded me a bit of reading far-future dystopias, in which the characters come across artifacts of our current civilization, and struggle to understand them. Sky struggles to understand just about everything, right down to how to use a toilet (or "Bathroom Tree" as she calls it). For example, one of the first people Sky sees is apparently wearing sunglasses. She says:
"His eyes are hidden by small black shells, and I don't like that I can't see them, that I don't know what color they are." (Page 26)
Sometimes her reactions are humorous:
""Now, come on into the kitchen," she's saying. I follow her into a large open space with a lot of square wood boxes everywhere. "Have a seat at the table." She points to a large, round wood, and I begin to climb up on it. "No, no. On a chair," she says, pulling on another, smaller wood and showing me how she wants me to sit on it." (Page 92)
Sometimes they are profound:
"I think it disappoints her that I refuse to watch the television box with her after dinner. But the few times I've sat there with her, all I've seen are pretend faraway people talking to each other about things that have nothing to do with me. I don't understand why she's interested in them if they're not even here, if they're not even real." (Page 119)
Sky is a strong character, even though her lack of basic knowledge makes her feel foolish and vulnerable at times. I think that teen readers will find her as compelling as I did. Despite the female narrator, I have every reason to believe that teen boys would find this book intriguing, too. In fact, I'm going to put it on the small stack of books that I recommend to my husband. (The previous book I gave him was Matt de la Pena's The Living). I highly recommend Searching for Sky for teens and adults.
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (@BWkids)
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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