Book Review: Saving Sky by Diane Stanley

Saving Sky is a good, albeit highly idealistic and slightly odd, story about a young girl growing up in an era defined by war. Against this backdrop, she learns the importance of standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

The story is set in a fairly realistic alternative version of modern-day United States. Sky Brightman is a seventh grader who lives outside of town on her family’s New Mexico farm. They are extremely environmentally friendly and almost entirely self-sufficient, so when terrorist attacks destroy the region’s oil supply and the way of life for most of their community, the Brightmans are not significantly impacted. At least, not because of the sudden lack of many physical conveniences, which many people in nearby cities face. Instead, the family’s life are turned upside down when they take in a young boy, one of Sky’s classmates, after his father is unjustly arrested. Despite the fact that Kareem and his family are legal citizens of the United States, prejudice and fear caused by ongoing wars with the country his parents are from lead people in the community and government to treat them unjustly. Similar to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, families of Middle Eastern descent are being taken to detention centers simply because of their ancestry.The book opens with a quote from the sitting president practically encouraging sentiments akin to those from the Cold War and McCarthy era. When Kareem’s family is targeted, the Brightmans take him into their home and attempt to hide him and allow him to have as comfortable a life as can be had by someone who is hiding from the government.

Throughout the story, Sky struggles to balance her desire to help others who are in need with her own self-preservation. The themes of this book include courage and putting others before yourself, and are clear and noble. The writing is extremely simple,  which at times made it a difficult to remain engaged. However, it is important to keep in mind that this book was written for a middle or early high school audience, and the writing is appropriate for that audience. Additionally, running through the background of the story is the spirituality Sky’s family holds. They carry out a naturalistic, good-vibes focused spirituality; it is unclear whether this is a representation of a specific religion or entirely a creation of the author’s imagination. Unfortunately, this way of thinking does not accommodate the reality of the Brightman’s world or ours. While the “blessings” and other ceremonial aspects of their religion initially appear harmless, they create a mentality of self-reliance which carries a multitude of dangers and is incongruous with reality.

I feel for the characters of this story. They are doing their best to help people in need, and they stand up to those who try to tell them that something which they know to be wrong is okay. The things they do are good, and the lessons from this book are good. I could even go so far as to say it’s good to read about people who believe different things from yourself, to examine what you believe and see how the differences interact; it is still saddening for me to read something like this where the people you cheer for hold fundamentally untrue beliefs.

For the most part, I enjoyed reading Saving Sky. Keeping in mind that it is written on a middle school level, it tactfully addresses subjects such as racism and courage. I cautiously recommend it. It is fairly short, and because the writing is simple it does not take long to get through, so it would not be a big time commitment even if you began it and ended up not enjoying it.

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