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- Title: The Sky So Heavy
- Author: Claire Zorn
- Category: Young Adult / Dystopian
- Publisher: University Of Queensland Press 2013
- Pages: 304
- Awards: Shortlisted Aurealis Awards Best Young Adult Novel 2013, Shorlisted CBCA Book of the Year Older Readers 2014, Longlisted Inky Awards 2104
- My Rating: 4.5 stars
Summary: 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. Only it’s not like any other day because, on the other side of the world, nuclear missiles are being detonated. When Fin wakes up the next morning, it’s dark, bitterly cold and snow is falling. There’s no internet, no phone, no TV, no power and no parents. Nothing Fin’s learnt in school could have prepared him for this. With his parents missing and dwindling food and water supplies, Fin and his younger brother, Max, must find a way to survive in a nuclear winter … all on their own. When things are at their most desperate, where can you go for help?
My Review: (it is a long review but please read on – its a great book!) The Sky So Heavy begins when Fin has a gun held to his head and his thoughts are of 1. Not wanting to die, 2. That he alone is responsible for his younger brother Max and 3. That he is not normally the kind of guy who would have a gun held to his head. But crazy things are happening in Fin’s world now, the ‘raw, blind kind of crazy‘ when the burning need for food and survival changes peoples behaviour.
Claire Zorn drew me in instantly with the tense first scene in her book. It hinted at what was to come for Fin, but didn’t give too much away, and within a page the story of Fin and his younger brother Max rewinds back three months to before it all began. ‘It’ being the nuclear
winter that descended upon the world after nuclear missiles were launched. In a matter of days the atmosphere is choked with dust and ash, and firestorms from the blast have incinerated cities near the launch site. The TV announces predictions of infrastructure collapse, crop shortages and global famine.
The day had started in a pretty ordinary way for Fin – the school bus where he sees Lucy – the girl of his dreams, the nervy Year 7’s, Arnold Wong, the bullied boy who no one ever talks to, and school classes where speculation of nuclear warfare is an impossible thought to most. Most don’t think it will actually happen. But some do, like the ‘hippies’ down the coast who have set up a self-sustaining settlement. But at 4pm that day ‘it’ happens.
Fin’s and Max’s mother, (who works for the government in disaster management) instructs Fin to buy food and water and to fill every available container with water and to stay where he is. Within 24 hours though, Fin finds himself alone with his brother – his dad and step mum gone and ‘the sky so heavy‘ with grey radioactive snow.
Days pass, the electricity cuts out, the water too, the temperature drops and the cold settles around them. Boredom sets in. No TV, no telephone, no iPad, iPod, computer. No internet, Facebook updates or current news. No warmth. And soon – dwindling food and water supplies. The narrative slowed (but not in a bad way) through those long days of waiting, shivering and rationing food – it showed the build up to what was to come, the loneliness and the heavy weight upon Fin’s shoulders with the care of his younger brother. I felt for Fin here – I really connected to the fierce love and protectiveness he felt for his brother and heartbroken for him that at the point of nuclear disaster his mother didn’t come for him and Max, and his father left them to race after his new wife.
All Fin’s neighbours are in the same boat, and as the heartbreaking weeks pass things become desperate and Fin must do anything he can to save them. His only chance is to get out. They must leave his home in the Blue Mountains and try to get to the city to his mother. What follows is an unputdownable read. Months into a global disaster, the world has changed, people have changed and the savage instinct for survival settles upon every person – but each handle it different ways. When Fin leaves he reconnects with Lucy and Arnold (Noll), the bullied boy who no one talks to, and together they make their way to the city – but its not an easy task especially with the disaster management plans the government has put in place (which was scary to read!)
For Fin, Lucy, Noll and Max the journey is fraught with difficulty. They do things they never thought they could. They are brave and resilient but also heavy hearted with all that they’ve seen and dispairing for what the future may hold. They come up against violence, hatred and greediness, but also love, friendship and hope. Noll, a devout Christian, brings a spirituality and calmness to the story that helps Fin make his way through some of the tough decisions. The themes winding through The Sky So Heavy are ones that will touch each reader – family and friend ship, nuclear warfare, courage and perseverance, death and grief, survival, spirituality and ethics.
I only had one small niggle about the book which drew me out of the narrative just for a moment – the story was way to good for it to impact the read too much, but ultimately Fin’s luck at running into pretty much the only person who could help him right when he needed it was just a little too opportune and perhaps their accidental meeting could have happened in a slightly different way – but as I said it didn’t have a great impact on the read.
I read this novel quickly and found it hard to put down. It is the kind of novel that resonates long after the last word is read, the kind of novel that made me think ‘this could happen‘. The novel was set in the Blue Mountains – so close to home for me, which made it seem more real, more possible – I could picture it. It made me think about where I could stockpile canned food and water, how I would react if at 4pm today nuclear missiles were launched and how much we rely on our electronic gadgets and up to date news.
We have become a society of knowing about things as they happen – with one click we can find out about anything going on in the world – but what if from one day to the next there was nothing – no internet, no news, no newspapers, radio or TV? And we were stranded in our house with subzero temperatures and declining water and food supplies. I wondered where our axe was in case I needed to cut down trees for firewood, and would I even have the strength for that? My 16 year old son read this book as soon as I’d finished it – and the same as me, he read in in one go – in fact he stayed up way too late for a school night just so he could finish it. And by the way – he told me that he would chop down the trees for firewood – so its all good! We had so many great discussions about the book! And isn’t that what a good book is all about? I say yes to that.
Read the first chapter of The Sky So Heavy HERE
Read all of my Book Reviews HERE
Author Bio: Claire Zorn lives on the south coast of New South Wales with her husband and two small children. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Post Graduate Diploma in writing. She is a music lover, retro furniture collector and amateur swim-club enthusiast. Claire’s new novel The Protected is out now (and the by the way, I have just finished it – it is brilliant – book review to come!)