The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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?

I love apocalyptic stories set in familiar locations, and the fact that The Sky So Heavy is set in Australia really added to the realism for me, though it explored something entirely foreign (thankfully). Though I'm not familiar with the Blue Mountains, they make for an amazingly atmospheric setting, a great sense of isolation and fear. Though it's an apocalyptic novel it lacks melodrama, and it explores the motivations and emotions of the central characters beautifully. It's about ordinary kids facing an extraordinary situation, a terrifyingly believable one. (I find fictional stories about nuclear war a lot scarier than fictional stories about zombie apocalypses, largely because zombies don't exist in our reality. I mean, I hope.)

Though the novel opens with a flash-forward to a particularly thrilling point in the story, it's not a novel of non-stop thrills - I think the strengths of the novel lie in the way characters are developed as the story progresses, as they are shaped by their circumstances. After the flash-forward, the story returns back in time to prior to the (shall we say event?) event occurring, these opening scenes a little clumsy in that way every apocalyptic story is - Everything was perfect... until! Dialogue is flippant and the impending threat of nuclear war is quickly set up - once everything is established, it's an enthralling read. Some decisions by certain characters (very difficult to avoid major spoilery spoilers here) are difficult to believe, but that probably reflects the reality of extreme situations - people behave in irrational ways. Fin has an authentic and endearing voice, a kid just trying to look after his brother. I think this novel will appeal to teenagers of any gender.

The Sky So Heavy is accessible and thought-provoking and relevant, an enjoyable read. Well worth a look if you're after another frighteningly realistic apocalyptic novel to read after you've finished the Tomorrow When the War Began series.

The Sky So Heavy on the publisher's website
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