Searching for Sky
by Jillian Cantor
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Published by: Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 13, 2014
Genres: Middle Readers, Reverse Dystopian, Family, Love
Source: ARC from Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars
NOTICE: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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.
Just another day on the island . . .
At the beginning of Searching for Sky, we find Sky, 16, and River, around 18, going about their daily routine on Island, their home for the past 15 years. They use Bathroom Tree, hunt for fish in Ocean beyond Rocks and live comfortably in Shelter as they always have done. The only thing missing in their lives are their parents, Petal and Helmut.
A past of unknowns . . .
All the teens know of their past can be spoken of in a handful of words: Accident, Boat, California. These are the words whispered between Sky's mom, Petal, and River's father, Helmut over the years. When either teen asks for further explanation, they are told not to worry about the past; their ideal life on Island is all that matters.
One night, their world comes crashing down.
Helmut includes mushrooms in the nightly meal, telling Petal and the teens that he picked them in the field of flowers. River has a funny feeling about the mushrooms. He knows for a fact that there aren't any among the flowers, and protectively takes Sky on a walk, away from the nighttime meal. Something about the scene doesn't sit right with him, and he successfully keeps Sky away from eating the mushrooms. The next morning, they find their parents dead.
A boat will take them home.
Soon after the tragedy of their parents' deaths, Sky and River hear male voices outside Shelter. They are men from a boat, and when they see River, they immediately think he's his father, Helmut. With the promise of taking them to the mainland, Sky and River are taken by boat back to the place called California, where everyone seems to know who Helmut is, and River's name is Lucas and Sky's name is Megan. How will the teens navigate this new world?
Searching for Sky is a story about family and reconciling a person's acts in the present with their actions from the past. Which is the real version of the person? Can you still love someone who has done something unforgivable?
I liked Searching for Sky, although the characters of Petal and Sky, herself, were lacking personality. I realize that Sky had been on the island since age one and therefore was more childlike than a normal sixteen-year-old, but River was raised similarly and seemed to have much more common sense and wits about him. River and Helmut were much more developed characters, even during their time on the island. I would have liked to care a bit more about Sky.
Ultimately, I found the end unsatisfying. There was really no happy ending other than the fact that Sky resolved to figure out who she really was, despite how she was raised and her alternative self, Megan. I know that not all endings are "good" endings, but it was so sad that I got a few tears in my eyes. That said, any writing that evokes that strong of a response in me is highly worth reading.