What: The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn
Who: University of Queensland Press
When: July 24th 2013
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.
From an exciting new voice in Australian YA literature, Claire Zorn, comes a haunting novel, The Sky So Heavy – a mesmerising story inspired by the continued debate over Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers and how a line through a map can determine your fate.
The Sky So Heavy was different to what I expected. From the blurb, I expected it to be a harrowing story of a young man and his little brother trying to survive in a ruined world. I suppose this is what The Sky So Heavy was, to a degree. But I suppose I expected something a little different.
First of all, the characters felt unbelievable. Lucy spoke in such a manner that left my raising an eyebrow. It was so suave and calculated, and sadly, felt very fictional. I felt this way about our main character, Fin, as well, although he was more believable as a whole. As for Arnold – I had my doubts about him. He had been bullied extensively throughout his schooling life, and neither Fin nor Lucy had endeavoured to stop it, and had on occasion added to it. So then why was Arnold so willing to assist them? Sure, I understand that holding a grudge whilst everyone around you is dying of starvation might seem a little evil, but knowing the horrors of bullying firsthand and secondhand, I simply could not believe that Arnold would be so selfless and forgiving.
The ending was left open. It seems like a trend in the books I am reading at the moment, and I must say that I am not a fan. I don’t read a book only to be left wondering what happens to the characters after I read the last page. I want to know what happens to them, from the person who created them. I don’t believe in the ‘but now anything can happen because you get to decide’. No. No. That’s just not how it works. Instead, I am left wondering if they all die, or if they live, or if they get together etc etc, and this annoys me to no end. I simply abhor it.
The Sky So Heavy was told in an interesting way. The first quarter or so of the novel was told in the past tense, and then it swapped to the present tense from then onwards. I thought that I might find it confusing, because I have never read a book like that before, but I liked it. We got to know Fin’s feelings and emotions towards the nuclear warfare and what he was like before it all occurred, and then we got the present tense account of the aftermath. I liked this uniqueness.
This bit is a tad spoilery: In the end of the book, there are certain deaths that I felt were entirely unnecessary. I really liked both of the characters that were killed, and instead of being sad (which I assume would be the intended response in killing off beloved characters), I was just simply pissed off. The deaths weren’t poignant; they weren’t even noble. Nothing came about as a result of these characters’ deaths, and on the whole I felt that they were entirely superfluous to the story. I think The Sky So Heavy would have been just as ‘haunting’ and ‘mesmerising’ as the synopsis makes it out to be if these characters hadn’t died.
The thing I like about these post-apocalyptic stories is that it really brings the nature of the human race into light. We like to believe we’re all so civilised and yet if something were to happen and food, water, firewood and fuel became unavailable – we don’t need to let our imagination off its leash to imagine what would happen. Chaos. Violence. Murder. It’s practically written in the stars. The only thing we can afford to do is hope that something like this doesn’t happen because I guess we’d all be doomed because of our inherent survival instincts.
And on that happy note, I shall finish off this review by saying that I liked The Sky So Heavy enough, but it didn’t bring out the kind of emotional response I expected it to. The characters were unbelievable, and hard to relate to; and there were aspects towards the end of the novel that left me quite unimpressed.
© 2014, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.