Monday, July 30, 2012

The Waiting Sky ~ Lara Zielin arc review

The Waiting Sky
Putnam Juvenile
August 2, 2012
224 pages

While it's incredibly unlikely that you'll ever find me chasing any tornadoes - for fun, for research, or some combination of the two - I do have to admit that fictionalized accounts of those that do are interesting to me. (The 'reality' versions, oddly less so.)

Lara Zielin's The Waiting Sky uses the storm chasers and their quest to find the next great, big tornado and gather information from it as a backdrop to telling seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister's story. Living all of her teen, as well as most of her childhood, years alone with her alcoholic mother, Jane's learned how to take care of her mother.

In their troubled relationship, Jane makes as much money as she can babysitting - even to the detriment of her school work - pays the bills, lies for her mother and manages as best she can. Her mother, meanwhile spends all of the money (mostly on alcohol), forgets about bills, spends too much time in bars, and puts Jane in danger.

Jane's older brother, Ethan, left when she was just a kid and she's forever blamed him for (as she sees it) abandoning not only her but their mother as well. Now, he - after some urging from her best friend, too - has finally convinced Jane to spend the summer with him -  and the tornado chasing team he's a part of.

While everyone else, including the gorgeous, charming Max, is sure that time apart is what Jane's mother - and more importantly, Jane - need for a real chance at healing, Jane's not so sure. She's used to watching out for her mother.

Will she stay with Ethan - for the whole summer and maybe even past it - or will she return home to Minnesota and the dysfunctional relationship with her alcoholic mother, even if it means losing her best friend and continuing the same life?

I've never really thought before how perfect that chaos and ultimate unpredictability of tornadoes are to be paired alongside a story of someone dealing with addiction. The tornadoes the teams chase parallel, in a way, Jane's mother - or her relationship with her mother. There are false starts, things that seem like they're going to be more than they ultimately are, things that cause more damage than is first known.

The two work together extremely well, both for readers and for Jane. Both story lines - the team chasing the tornadoes and Jane working out her relationship with her mother (and brother) while quite different, are both very strong and blend together nicely in The Waiting Sky

As a story about addiction or a character dealing with someone with addiction, The Waiting Sky is different than any I've read; it removes Jane from the situation.We don't as much of her in the every day, routine of coping with her mother. That's also where I think The Waiting Sky is strongest and most unique, however. Jane deals with her guilt, mixed emotions and uncertainty away from her mother, with people not completely familiar with the situation and without the constant presence of her mother. All without the novel losing any depth or impact - possibly gaining a new kind.

With a great cast of characters (you might even want to start talking like a pirate a bit - it's safer than tornado chasing), the right touch of romance, fantastic family relationships and a great complex main character The Waiting Sky is one not to miss!

A great contemporary, realistic fiction novel you'll want to run out and pick up - it's out Thursday.

Rating: 8/10

My Spring Break Blog Spectacular interview post with Lara Zielin, author of The Waiting Sky (from April)

Thank you to Stacey Barney at Penguin/Putnam for my arc and to Stacey and Lara for participating in/helping with my SBBS (for which the arc was received)

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