Published by University Queensland Press on July 24, 2013
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
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For Fin, it's just like any other day - racing for the school bus, bluffing his way through class, and trying to remain cool in front of the most sophisticated girl in his universe, Lucy. Only it's not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated.
If you woke up to the end of the world tomorrow, how would you react? Turn on the TV, check the internet, phone your loved ones. But without electricity and disconnected lines, your next reaction would be to find the people that you love.
Sky So Heavy forces us to think about these things, as one of the most relatable and realistic post-apocalyptic books I’ve ever read. The end of the world is caused by nuclear missiles wiping out nearby nations, causing a long and cold nuclear winter. This premise is so incredibly realistic that you can actually imagine it happening like this. Through the perspective of Fin, a normal teenager in high school, we’ll witness the events immediately before and during the nuclear winter.
“Do you think it’s alright to do whatever you need to do to survive?”
We see Fin in his last few days of normalcy, by going to school, crushing on a girl and picking on a guy at school. Then, the nuclear winter strikes, and his immediate priorities become food, water, warmth and shelter, which eventually evolve into safety, longevity and survival. We slowly see him becoming a protector and a leader, as his decisions become harder and riskier. I liked how relatable Fin was, as someone who is just looking out for his younger brother. He isn’t the smartest or strongest kid on the block, but he’s determined and smart, and that’s what matters for survival. He isn’t without his flaws though, having bullied a guy at school because “everyone else did it”.
There is incredible attention to detail here, as the world slowly gets crazier when the food supplies run out. People will become territorial, scared, and they will turn on one another to protect their loved ones. The only thing that matters is survival, and Sky So Heavy reinforced this with every page.
Trying to save yourself and your family isn’t crazy. People will try to hold on when their world starts to tilt, they will grab onto whatever is in reach. Doesn’t matter if it means throwing punches at your neighbour or pointing a gun at someone’s head.
It was great to see a variety of relationships being explored in the novel, from brotherly to family love, neighbourly relationships, unlikely friends, and even a romance. It doesn’t just stop at though, with the population’s reliance on the government or the army when things go wrong also being explored.
While Fin is quite a serious character, there is a great balance of characters with his brother and the guy he bullied, Arnold. The fierce brotherly love was one of the best parts of the book, with Fin’s 12 year old brother Max being quite vulnerable and strong at the same time. I loved Max and his childish charm, with his refusal to follow Fin’s overprotectiveness, his teasing of Fin and his evil kid smile. Arnold on the other hand, was forgiving, kind, pious, and quick to help Fin when he needed it most. Although he verged on being a little too virtuous, he brought faith to the group when they needed hope, making sure they never lost their humanity. Lucy presented a much needed female addition to the group, and I’m glad the romance never felt forced or out of place.
I was so emotionally invested in the characters that I was crying at the end. I can’t remember the last time this has happened with a dystopian. The ending is left rather open though, which is kind of disappointing given this is a stand alone. I need closure dammit!
I’ve read so many post-apocalyptic stories that rarely focus on the important matters at hand – like food, water, warmth, shelter and safety. Sky So Heavy does it right, by focusing on these few key elements, but also being incredibly multi-layered and well thought out. It’s slow and there isn’t a lot of action, but it was realistic which let’s face it – not a lot of dystopians are.
Sky So Heavy brought back my faith in one of my favourite genres. If you love dystopian or post-apocalyptic reads, this one can’t be missed. Yay for awesome Aussie YA!
Rating: 5 out of 5
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