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Book Review: The Waiting Sky

The Waiting Sky
By Lara Zielin
August 2, 2012
Ages 14 and up
Putnam Juvenile
Reviewed: Hardcover


THE WAITING SKY manages to be an insightful, emotional story about addiction and family dynamics as well as a fun adventure story all at the same time. If you love storm chasing or contemporary stories that deal with subject matters such as alcohol abuse and estranged families, this is the book for you. It’s a quick read at just over 200 pages and it will thrill you the whole way through.

Of course, when I popped open the book for the first time, I couldn’t help but have flashbacks to a number of years back and the first time I saw the movie, Twister. Two storm chasers are out on the road with their team. (You know chasing deadly tornadoes, just another day in the neighborhood, right?) All the while they are dealing with personal issues as they chase… sometimes simultaneously. In a similar fashion, THE WAITING SKY centers around the storm chasing antics as well as the personal issues of two siblings, Jane and Ethan. Ethan is the storm chaser, Jane is joining him in order to get away from her alcoholic mother and to gather her thoughts about her own future. I could use metaphors here about how the intensity of the chase and their adventures parallels the conflict between Jane and her mother (whom she feels personally and intensely responsible for) but I will spare you. I will say this though: The matters at hand between Jane and her mother are perhaps more destructive than any ol’ EF-3 (or greater) that the team might encounter on their travels.

While I understood Jane’s situation and loved her as a character, I also found myself annoyed at the blinders she was wearing when it came to the truth about her mother’s addiction. She was so obtuse it was mind-boggling! But then again, that’s the whole point of the story.

At the start of the book, Jane leaves her mom (against her “better judgement”) due to events that occurred earlier in the year. She is struggling over the responsibility of taking care of her mom (trying to make sure they don’t end up in the streets) and taking care of herself (not letting her mom drag her nor her future down). She joins her brother, Ethan, who had already left years ago in order to make a future for himself. I understand that she resents her brother for leaving. This fact also fuels her defensiveness for her mother, as she accuses her brother of “abandoning them” years ago. Jane’s progression is seriously slow-going in the book, but that also adds to the rising tension and the climax that you know is coming with every flip of the page.

The book isn’t all family drama, though. There are a few side stories involving a potential love interest for Jane (and is he ever adorable!) as well as a fellow storm chaser who may be dealing with more than he can handle. These side stories (and the individual characters themselves) help to progress Jane’s own storyline. In fact, the whole cast of characters – including the cowgirl weather analyst who has the hots for Ethan, the competing team of storm chasers, Jane’s best friend back at home, and not to mention Jane’s mother – are all very well-developed and highly enjoyable to read about. While I know THE WAITING SKY is a standalone novel, I wonder if Lara would consider writing a spin-off about any of them?

Despite its serious subject matter (and the presence of massive tornadoes) THE WAITING SKY manages to be a light and enjoyable read for anyone looking for a good contemporary novel. If you haven’t added this one to your reading pile yet, I suggest that you do. This gem of a story hasn’t had the exposure I believe it deserves.

(Full disclosure: It is my life goal to some day join a team of storm chasers and to see a large tornado in person. Do any of you share the same dream?)

Plot: 9
Characters: 8
Setting: 9
Pacing: 9
Style: 9

Grade: 94