Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review: The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

Title: The Waiting Sky
Author: Lara Zielin
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)
ARC, 246 pages
Date Published: August 2, 2012
Source: Publisher
Description (Taken from Goodreads):
One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane's life for the better

Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can't quite admit her mother's alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane's best friend.

Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty--is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture.
The Waiting Sky has a road-trip book feel to it, with roadside diners, cute boys, deep-seated resentment, familial issues, oh, and tornados. Can’t forget the tornados. Because that’s what Jane does. She leaves her alcoholic mother for the summer, to sort out her life by tagging along with her storm-chaser older brother.

The thing about this book is that it is far, far deeper and more meaningful than one can imagine. Sure there’s some storm-chasing – and it’s really kind of cool – and sure, there’s a cut boy – and he’s really kind of awesome, but the big thing Jane comes up against, is herself. She’s been living a life of cleaning up after her alcoholic mother. And in the end, it could kill her; it almost killed her best friend Cat.

Now for anyone who has ever come face to face with alcoholism or any kind of drug abuse in their family, this book will resonate down to the marrow. It’s real, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s so beautifully told. Jane’s denial fills her up. She makes excuse after excuse for her mother because that’s what someone in her shoes does. She’s not just the daughter of an alcoholic, she’s all her mother has. Her brother Ethan got out when he could. And she hates him for that. Every emotion Jane experiences, whether the reader agrees with her or not, is entirely honest and realistic. The growth she has is tremendous.

Despite the heavy subject matter, Lara Zielin has an easy way with words. There is plenty of humor, thanks in great part to the TorBros crew and the suave Vermont boy Max. I found myself grinning through a good chunk of the book. On top of that, most of the characters come front and center at one point or another. They aren’t tertiary beings, as Zielin makes Ethan, Max, and even grumpy Victor take on important roles.

The Waiting Sky is a sensational story about growing up, moving on, and love of all kinds. The Tornado Alley backdrop allows readers to have a peak into a life that most of us have never imagined; but it comes to life in such clarity that it feels like we’re there, right along Jane, crying over a mother that was never a mom, learning to forgive a brother who is trying to make up for leaving, slowly falling in love with a stranger who could be so much more, and growing up during a summer of storms along a ragtag group of friends who become family. It was equal parts sweet, funny, and heartbreakingly beautiful. I cannot recommend it enough.

Opening line: Even though there’s a black wedge of sky in front of me that might drop a twister at any second, I can’t get my mom’s voice out of my head. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages: His hands are on my back, in my hair, on my hips. His fingers move like I’m Braille, like he’s trying to read me just by touching me. ~ pg. 180

*This is the ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy 
 *This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

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