Published by Bloomsbury Australia on July 3, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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River means everything to Sky. They have lived alone together on Island for as long as they can remember. The two of them hunt for food, wash in Falls and curl up together in Shelter. Their life is simple and safe. Until River sees a boat . . .
Across Ocean is California, a place where nothing makes sense to Sky. She is separated from River and taken to live with a grandmother she doesn’t know. Lost and heartbroken, Sky searches for him so they can return to Island, only to find out that their paradise wasn’t as perfect as she thought, and everything she’s ever known and loved may have been a lie.
A gripping and beautifully told story of love and survival in a hostile world – ours.
Searching for Sky contains an intriguing ‘reverse dystopia’ concept, where a girl who has lived on an island her whole life is rescued and returned to civilization, and everything is new to her. While it was explored with beautiful writing and creativity, what I didn’t expect was how much it was going to punch me in the gut with feels.
Searching for Sky is undoubtedly the saddest book I’ve ever read. The psychological damage and trauma both Sky and River experienced upon removal from their home on the island was explored fully. This shit is intense and no glossed over Jungle Book, and I had to put the book down at several points during the story because it was just so sad. It reminded me of taking animals out of their natural habitat and putting them in a cage or a zoo, which struck home just how difficult it would be.
I don’t need anyone else, I remind myself. River and me. Me and River. Shelter and Falls. The sky and the stars. Ocean and Fishing Cove. That is all I need. All I am.
When Sky and River are ‘saved’ and returned to civilization, the stark contrast between our modern world and the island was done extremely well. Sky doesn’t know anything aside from what’s on the island, so she refers to everything as wood, leaves, rabbit pelts or coconuts. She has no idea what everything else is and refers to the toilet as the Bathroom Tree and bandages as leaves. Getting off the island is only the beginning, as she needs to be taught the very basics of living in our modern world, such as using the toilet, washing her hands, and using utensils to eat. She could not read or understand the words people were saying, and it was like a child waking up as a teenager, and is assigned a therapist and a teacher who frustratingly don’t understand her circumstances at all. I mean, how do they expect her to read when she doesn’t even know what half the objects are around the house?!
Awesome. It sounds like a silly, empty word. The words we used on Island had meaning. Fish. Water. Shelter. Falls. Spears. Fire. Everything meant something. Everything in our world was useful.
And that’s only the beginning, because the whole back story as to why she was raised on an island with River and why her mum and his dad were together is completely gut wrenching, disturbing and tragic. While watching Sky adapting to the world with her grandmother and her new friend Ben was difficult enough, then we will see the disturbing fate of River as a son of a criminal and it is oh so terrible.
The beauty in Searching for Sky is that it explores some of our follies of human nature in depth. How people are judged by association. How they may only sympathise with your circumstances, but not really seek to understand them fully. How people’s fates may be entirely out of their control and be subject to the cruel ways of life. It is a thought provoking book that I would recommend to everyone, in the way that it makes us think.
Searching for Sky is one of the most unique books that I’ve read, but also one of the saddest. The exploration of an island girl and boy returning to civilization was done fantastically and realistically. The things that will happen in Searching for Sky are confronting, heavy and will completely rip your heart out, and will affect you in a profound way.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
Tom survived a devastating flood that claimed the lives of her sister and parents. Now she lives with Bill in his old shed by the lake. But it’s time to move out—Tom is pregnant with Bill’s baby.
Jonah lets her move in with him. Mrs Peck gives her the Fishmaster Super Series tackle box. Nana is full of gentle good advice and useful sayings.
And in her longing for what is lost, Tom talks to fish: Oscar the carp in the pet shop, little Sarah catfish who might be her sister, an unhelpful turtle in a tank at the maternity ward. And the minnow.
The Minnow is a moving and powerful coming of age story with a whimsical element that belies the heartbreaking truth of grief and loss. Tom is a character you will never forget.
I have just finished reading The Minnow, and I still have no idea what I just read. The Minnow was absolutely beautiful, in the way it presented the story that could have potentially torn us to pieces. But it was so unusual in the way that it was told, it kind of detracted from that grief, trauma and sadness.
Tom is a 15 year old girl who is pregnant, from the result of sexual abuse from an older man. She has lost her parents and sister recently to some floods, but her sister and her grandpa are both very present characters in the story. That’s because Tom sees, hears and interacts with dead people. Don’t try and figure out who is actually physically present and who is not, because it’s all fair game to Tom. She’s also incredibly endearing with the way she uses a word of the day and refers to her dictionary and thesaurus throughout.
“Profound?” he said.
I could tell he was irritated with the word, but I didn’t care. I love it. I also love the word ravenous, but profound is up there as one of my favourites. So I let it hang.
Which lead me to think, that Tom is a complex, strong and disturbed girl, especially after everything she’s been through. That thought made me sad, and as I progressed through The Minnow, it stuck with me. For most of the book, we read Tom’s innermost thoughts and the way she relates to the world around her. Throughout the book, she will bring up things that seem to be relatively literal to her, such as a girl Anabel being a mermaid with fish scales on her neck, and being able to talk to turtles and fish. That’s where the whimsical part comes in.
The Minnow is literally Tom’s unborn baby in the book, who has her own voice and speaks to Tom during her pregnancy. In a way, having The Minnow kind of distracted Tom from all of the other problems around her, and symbolised love after loss.
Just like me, Jonah has only one living relative. “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” says the Minnow.
Then comes the confusing part. The book is really hard to follow in linear progression, it will switch randomly from different events through the past and the present. You will be reading one thing, where Tom is in hospital because she’s giving birth, then every new paragraph will be something new. I found the switching around to be confusing and hard to follow, which didn’t help my enjoyment of the book.
There are some absolutely beautiful character relationships here, such as the one with Jonah, Tom’s wonderful, non-judgmental and supportive best friend. He sticks with Tom all the way through her pregnancy with The Minnow, and even takes care of the baby afterwards. And they don’t end up a couple just for caring for each other – as Jonah turns out to be gay. I’m not quite sure why two minors were allowed to live together alone though, which seems to be a massive loophole. The way Tom relates to her Nana in a nursing home, and her dead grandfather or ‘Papa’ is also quite touching.
The Minnow is a beautiful, touching, and unusual book about grief, teenage pregnancy and coping with loss and life. It’s told in a strange whimsical manner that jumps around the past and the present, which is confusing. It’s one of the most unique books I’ve ever read, which isn’t a surprise why it’s won the 2014 Text Prize. I loved the diversity and the beauty within the book, which packs a punch in its short length.
Rating: 4 out of 5
I received this book from Text Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
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