I'm Thalia! I run a book blog called Pictures in the Words and I hope to be an editor for YA fiction. I'm a GoodReads refugee!
In order for me to enjoy a book, I need to like the narrator. I need my main character to be, if not likable, at least possible to sympathize with. I need them to give me a reason to care. I need them to fight for what they want, and if they can’t or won’t, I need a dang good reason why. Most importantly, I need to be able to tolerate their existence.
Sky, of Searching for Sky, did absolutely none of those things for me. She was, perhaps, the most insufferable part of the story, and considering how unique and interesting this plot could have been, my dislike of the main character is pretty upsetting. However, no matter how much I might have wanted to, I couldn’t look past how idiotic and childish she was throughout the narrative. In addition to that, I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened, and because of Sky’s mindset, the writing was childish and immature throughout. The only thing I liked about this book was Ben, Sky’s friend and neighbor in California, and he didn’t get nearly enough screen time as I would have liked. Overall, I was pretty disappointed with this read, and was generally relieved when it was finally over.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Please also keep in mind that I read this book several months ago now, so I might not be as detailed as I usually am, but my general feelings are still the same as they were then.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
· I’m generally a sucker for an underappreciated side character, and Ben was no exception. Ben is known for helping out Sky’s grandmother, and she puts him in charge of kind of guiding Sky through her daily life. He was likeable, kind, mature, and extremely helpful. Throughout the book, I kept hoping Sky would just give up on River and just go along with Ben, possibly live happily ever after with him—but, of course, she stayed obsessed with River and Ben got shoved into the corner. He was really the only bearable part of the story for me, and I really wish he’d been more developed. He added resistance to the plot, while also being a support for Sky when nobody else is there for her. It was also nice that he wasn’t necessarily set up as a love interest for Sky, but rather just hangs around as a great friend for her. It’s like he knows that the last thing she needs is some kind of romance (although I wouldn’t have objected to a romance…). He was just…good. And since literally everyone else in the book sucked so much, I really appreciated that.
What I Didn’t Like:
· We’ll get the big one out of the way first. It’s kind of two complaints, but they go hand in hand. Sky was infuriating. She was childish, immature, and insufferable. A few pages into the book, I wanted to throw something because of how silly the writing sounded. Sky talks as though she were only four or five years old—there’s a strange lack of articles (a, the, an), random capitalization for common nouns, and Sky herself registers things as a little child. Now, I can see absolutely no reason why Sky’s guardians (her mother and River’s father, Helmut) would talk to their kids as kids for the rest of their lives. Surely her mother and Helmut spoke like adults to each other, at the very least, and I’m sure they didn’t drop all article usage in the years they lived on Island. Yet, Sky couldn’t speak like someone who had been speaking English all their life—which she had. For me, one of my major joys in reading is good writing. If it is not well written, I don’t enjoy it—I can’t find much entertainment in a writer I don’t think can write. (It’s like trying to enjoy a drawing by someone who obviously can’t draw.) I can’t tell if it’s Cantor’s writing I dislike, or just Sky’s ridiculous narrative, but either way, it hindered my enjoyment of the entire novel. There was no logical reason for Sky to sound the way she did, other than it set her apart from other people used to our time period. I’m not a fan of doing something just for the aesthetics of it, so serious points down for this.
· On a similar note, Sky herself irritated me. She was supposed to be a fighter, logical, and practical, but nothing in her attitude or actions depicted that to me. She spends a vast majority of the book either 1) crying/moaning/whining about River’s absence, or 2) trying (irrationally and idiotically) to get back to Island. If she’s practical, why does she fling herself into the ocean, convinced it will just float her back to Island? If she’s a fighter, why does she lie down and cry every time she even thinks about River? And attributing her entire worth to him, like she does repeatedly throughout the book, doesn’t make her likable, it makes her seem dependent and weak. I wanted to sympathize with her situation because she’s the protagonist and this whole thing would certainly be difficult, but I just couldn’t stand her long enough to feel sorry for her.
· Lastly, nothing actually felt realistic. This is supposedly a “reverse dystopian,” but it’s basically just a contemporary novel with a main character in a very interesting mindset. However, the realistic pieces of the puzzle didn’t add up. I couldn’t believe anything that happened. Sky’s grandmother told River to get lost? He followed Sky around as a homeless man to make sure she stayed safe? Helmut and Sky’s mother were part of some weird, homicidal cult? It was all a bit too melodramatic for me to swallow, and felt more soap opera than believable YA novel.
Overall: For the most part, it was Sky herself that did this book in for me and made it impossible for me to enjoy any part of it. Ben almost saved bits of it, but overall, I just couldn’t immerse myself in the story and get myself to care about the characters. If Cantor writes another book I’m interested in, I certainly won’t rule it out because I feel like maybe it was just this character that ruined things for me, so I’m hoping for the best. However, I don’t recommend this book. It was childish in all the wrong ways, and unrealistic on top of that. It’s an interesting concept with a flawed narrator.