The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin Review

Monday, June 24, 2013

Title: The Waiting Sky
Author: Lara Zielin (Twitter)
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publish Date: August 2, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 246
Source: Publisher

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. She 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.
Jane's life at home is hardly picture-perfect. While most kids her age are trying on the latest fashions, driving new cars and looking forward to the next party, Jane spends her time babysitting and using her hard-earned money to pay the bills and care for her alcoholic mother. Convinced that if she leaves her mother alone to fend for herself, she'll die, Jane is trapped in a debilitating environment with nowhere to turn. But when a deadly car crash nearly kills both Jane and her best friend, Cat gives her an ultimatum: get away from your mother, or we can't be friends. And so Jane heads off for a summer with Ethan, but even then, her mother's disease is never far behind.

I can't tell you why I took so long to read The Waiting Sky. I was dying to read it, but there's always that fear that a book you're looking forward to won't live up, and I hate that. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a go, and I'm so glad I did. Lara Zielin has created a heartwrenching character trapped in unfathomable circumstances and facing down the most difficult decision of her life. Tackling gripping drama head-on, the novel spins you into a whirlwind of drama, adventure, romance and self-realization, giving you a first-hand look at one girl's fight to find an even footing. With a fast-placed plot, relatable characters and plenty of drama to keep you invested, The Waiting Sky is riveting.

There was so much about The Waiting Sky that worked for me that it very nearly outweighs all the subtle flaws. First and foremost, I must say that the book is slim, and it's action-packed, so you'll never feel as though it lags, or you're stuck, or you need to put it down. From page one, we're thrust into Jane's life, which is messy, complicated and completely revolves around her alcoholic mother. Her mother is one of those characters that I longed to pity because I know she has a disease, but her selfishness made my blood run cold. Jane existed solely to keep her mother alive, and her mother manipulated Jane with promises, kindness and love whenever she needed anything. I had a difficult time accessing Jane's persona at first because her being is entirely wrapped up in her mother's existence. Separating the two was almost a struggle, but when Jane finally goes to chase tornadoes with her brother, we begin to see just how broken she is. Max was a fairly strong secondary character and love interest, but I really wanted more of him in the novel. I appreciate the fact that there was no insta-love, rather an insta-connection between these two fairly lost souls, but I think more insight into Max's struggles would have heightened that connection and amped up the conclusion a notch. I think that Ethan was a great character. His bitterness and resentment towards his mother, as well as his sadness and frustration about Jane's inability to escape as he had was tangible and heartfelt, and his emotions bled onto the pages. For the most part, the other secondary characters were quite strong, as well. Victor's own struggles resonated, and I could see Jane healing as she experience his healing, as well. I do wish there'd been a bit more tornado action and chasing, but hey, that's just me. The end wraps up nice and sweet, and it's a fitting conclusion with just enough holes to keep us wondering how it will all turn out for Jane and her family.

Overall, I think that The Waiting Sky was a strong story in which I easily became invested. While I think there were a few lowlights, it was definitely one of those reads that stays in your mind. I give it a high 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.

21 comments:

  1. The Waiting Sky sounds like such a powerful read Melissa. I love books which tug at your emotions and I think Jane's relationship with her mother would certainly do that for me. I can't believe that I didn't pay this book much attention before your review, but it definitely sounds like a book that I would enjoy! Lovely review!

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    1. It really was, Jasprit. I think the author had the unique ability to spin a dramatic story about a dark issue that even younger teens can relate to :)

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  2. Sometimes slim books can be great and sometimes they can be just as satisfying as big, honkin' books. I do like the idea of tornado chasing (well, not for myself, of course!) and the character development sounds a bit heart-rending.

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    1. The characters were definitely enough to tug at my heartstrings, and the story is such a common, believable one, that it's definitely a strong story, Mary! :)

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  3. Oh man. I'm a pretty non-violent person, but I can tell Jane's mother is someone I'm going to want to reach in and slap for treating her daughter so poorly. I think I'd rather have someone be outright nasty to me than manipulate me through kindness, I think that would cause a far deeper cut than anything else. Grrrr. I get mad at her mother just thinking about it! *deep breaths* Yay for no insta-love though! That's something even if Max isn't quite as fleshed out as you might have liked:) Fabulous review as per usual!

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    1. Gahhhh yes. Her mother was such a manipulative bitch. It killed me. And Jane really just wanted to keep her mother alive, which her mother exploited every chance she got. It was really rough.

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  4. Nice to see Lara's book here - she's great! I've read her earlier novels, but I still need to get to this one.

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    1. Lara's writing style is so good...so fluid. I really need to pick up more of her titles!

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  5. Oh, good review. I almost forgot about this book so thanks for bringing it back to my attention.

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    1. You bet! I'd love to hear what you think about it :)

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  6. I just read a book like that. One where you are so worried that it won't live up to your expectations. :) I was lucky and mine rocked. This one does sound good and I'm curious as to how they portray the mother. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

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    1. Of course, Melissa! It's a really good book, despite a few little quirks - very powerful.

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  7. Sounds like this story has nice pacing. Gotta love a short, action-packed story! Jane's mother sounds awful...at least it sounds like Jane spends plenty of time in the story away from her. And chasing tornadoes! That's intriguing.

    Great review :)

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    1. Jane's mother IS awful. Absolutely horrible, actually. It's a fun story - fun and heartfelt :)

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  8. This sounds interesting and I love the cover with the tornado in the glass jar. I've eyed up that cover on more than one occasion. I have a hard time reading books with awful parents, but maybe I'll give this one a try. Great review!

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    1. Thanks, Natalie! It's definitely rough to read about shitty parents, but it's also nice to read a sort realism in that respect, you know? It makes it more authentic and tangible.

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  9. I've had this book in my tbr the since last year but I haven't been able to read it because of the same reasons you mentioned. A book that looks great from the outside, most of the time turns out to be a bummer. It's so great to know that this one worked. I'm very close to my mother, so mother-daughter relations, whether good or bad. always affects me the most. I can't wait to read The Waiting Sky! Great review, Melissa!

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  10. This sounds like a great read. I'm always intrigued by tornadoes and hurricanes, even though I wouldn't ever want to deal with one myself.

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  11. It says something when a short book can be better than a huge, 500 page novel. Sounds like this one is telling a great story! Jane sounds like a real complex character. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I agree - this book was so strong, but also had its weak points. I remember it very fondly, though, and was pleasantly surprised this story. Wonderful review, Melissa! :)

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  13. The Waiting Sky was one of my favorite books of 2012, so I'm glad you enjoyed it. :) There was definitely a lot going on here, and even though a book as jam-packed with dramatic situations like this would appear overly dramatic most of the time, I never felt that way while reading this. And that cover is SO pretty! Lovely review, Melissa.

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