Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: Under a Painted Sky

This review marks the third in a series of posts on books I'm looking forward to in 2015.

The Stats: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, released March 17, 2015 from Putnam Juvenile

The Synopsis: Samantha and her father are the only Chinese family in St. Joseph, Missouri. She's long wanted to return to New York City, where she grew up, but her father has his sights set on California--it is the era of the gold rush, after all. After a series of terrible events, Sam finds herself on the run with an escaped slave, Annamae. Together, these two bright, strong, complicated girls make their way along the Oregon Trail, aiming to conceal their identities as they cross the dangerous countryside and head for the freedom and resolution they both crave.

The Review: Under a Painted Sky is a darn good story. It's filled with well-drawn, memorable characters who encounter their fair share of anxiety-inducing drama, but Lee is so deft a storyteller that it all works quite well and doesn't feel contrived. If this title and 2013's One Came Home are the harbingers of a great new surge of westerns with sassy lady leads, readers are in for a serious treat. My library has a specific section for junior high fiction, and this title will be a perfect fit for that collection.

Why I can't wait: It's diverse without the diversity ever feeling forced or tokenistic. It's feminist without ever smacking readers upside the head with it. It's a western set on the Oregon Trail, and it's a story about a group of teens juggling dreams, secrets, and survival. Is there anything not to love in that premise? I'm hand-selling this one 'til the cows come home.

Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

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