Tuesday, February 2, 2016

2016 Books: Under a Painted Sky

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Putnam, 2015
384 p.

Under a Painted Sky, set in the mid-1800s, is a young adult novel about the orphaned American daughter of Chinese immigrants who accidentally kills someone in self-defense and ends up on the Oregon Trail with a teenaged runaway slave, both posing as boys. I loved the concept of this book - who doesn't like a good Oregon Trail story? And I was thrilled that it focused on characters from populations so often left out of popular narratives. Unfortunately, I found it a bit slow going at times, and was frustrated with some things the characters thought/said/did that seemed out of sync with the information they had and the time in which they lived. (More in a spoilery paragraph below!) But overall it was a fun read.

SPOILERS: As I said, the girls are posing as boys, and they end up traveling with a slightly older group of boys who are really quite decent to them, and of course everyone falls in love. The main character definitely has an emotional connection with the boy she has a crush on, and of course she's hurt when he flirts with other girls, but SHE IS TELLING HIM SHE IS A BOY. She seemed to think that he should be . . . open to the idea of being attracted to another boy, maybe, in a matter-of-course way that did not seem historically realistic? It bugged me.

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