Title: Searching for Sky
Author: Jillian Cantor
Genre: YA contemporary
Length: 288 pages
Published by: Bloomsbury
Source: received in exchange for review (thanks, Bloomsbury!!)
Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all.
So this book was amazing. But before I start talking about it, I’m going to tell you a story. Or at least, The Little Loony Writer is. See, I loved survival stories even when I was really little, so one day I decided to write one myself. It’s called Desert Island (I know, imaginative title) and I’d like to share a few excerpts of this literary masterpiece. Reminder that I was about 7 when I wrote this.
I edited all these pictures using Picmonkey, by the way. It’s fantastic.
We have a front cover. Lovely. Notice that I was not much of an illustrator. At all. There’s a school in this cover because it’s school children who get stranded on a deserted island. Obviously. These next two excerpts are from different parts in the story – two of my favourite excerpts, actually. (you can click the pictures to make them bigger)
Obviously you need to suspend a lot of disbelief in this story. It’s awfully convenient that Sarah just HAPPENS to be an expert at taming monkeys. And I’m sure they 3 barrels of jelly on a deserted island are quite commonly found. Also lemon squeezers for lemonade and forty umbrellas for parachuting.
There are also illustrations.
These might need explaining. Pic A (left) is of the children in sleeping bags. They look more like worms. Pic B (middle) is them parachuting with umbrellas. Unfortunately that dude’s arm looks more like a chicken drumstick. But hey, he’s got a belly button. Pic C (right) is of a rock-climbing wall. Although I have no idea what’s next to it.
So now that I have shared with you my brilliant writing skills as a young child (you may laugh), I am actually going to review the book.
Side note: isn’t this curly script lovely? I only just discovered it.
The voice in this book is absolutely amazing. Sky’s confusion at the new world, her complete “other-ness,” is shown through her frightening experience of California. It was like a much more negative Enchanted.
Here we have Sky, falling headfirst into California, leaving behind everything she’s ever known. She can’t wrap her head around everything. A handbag is a “rabbit pelt container.” A car is a “cave.” Her grandmother is “the grandmother woman.” I believed her story because it was so vividly and truthfully told.
The best thing when reading, for me, is when I’m completely invested in a character’s story, and sympathising with them. And Sky is a character who’s easy to feel sympathy for – I could not even imagine the kind of upheaval she experienced, and the heartache she felt at losing River. The ideas that turned out to be completely wrong.
So that’s the sad part about this book. I didn’t cry because I very rarely cry at books, but still – it is sad. It is very sad. Sad that Sky doesn’t belong, that she’s lost River, that everyone expects her to be someone she’s not.
It’s such an interesting and unique novel. I’m amazed Sky didn’t start trying to kill animals for food, really.
Instead, she’s forced to conform, to play by California’s rules. It really annoyed me how nobody wanted to call her “Sky,” because that’s not her real name. They were not helpful at all in her process of getting used to society. That made me so angry at them. I really did like Ben, though, the guy who lived next door to Sky’s grandma. He was sweet and let Sky be herself.
Throughout this book, I couldn’t help but think that even though this is fiction, the same thing has happened so many times. Maybe not like this, but culture clashes are so real, and this was a really amazing reflection of that, I think.
The writing is simple but beautiful, and there are a bunch of quotes that I read a few times over.
If you enjoy stories about belonging, stories that will break your heart, or stories that are unique in their concept and voice. Sky is a narrator you won’t forget.