Reading The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn—my first dystopian novel—showed me the parallels between that genre and Holocaust Literature which I studied at Presbyterian College this past semester.
The Sky So Heavy follows teenagers Fin, his brother Max, and Fin’s friends Lucy and Noll as they are thrust into a tumultuous world after a nuclear missile test goes wrong. The characters must overcome worldwide famine, abnormally cold weather, and isolation. In order to survive, the four teens must bond together, but the way in which that occurs surprised me. The characters are realistic, and I could identify with them more and more as the story progressed. The Sky So Heavy is an easy read with a good plot pace but is nonetheless dark and depressing.
The story is told from Fin’s point of view, and his first line gripped me:
“There are two things I know right now: one is that a guy is holding a gun to my head, the other is that I don’t want to die” (1)
This line is woven throughout the novel in a creative way. Fin relates what has happened to him in the past tense and goes back and forth between his past and the present reality with a guy pointing a gun at him. I enjoyed this technique because it made me feel like I was watching a movie.
The Sky So Heavy raises two questions that stood out to me. First, Fin recalls his previous Christmas with his mom and regrets his actions, saying that he would have acted differently had he known it would be his last “normal” Christmas. This is something I contemplated over this past Christmas season, as I know many people who would have loved to have a “normal” Christmas with their family after losing loved ones to COVID. This idea contrasts with people who told me that they dreaded the stress of spending Christmas with family. Fin’s regrets made me realize that we should never take time with family for granted and also made me contemplate how to deal with these missed opportunities. How can we live with no regrets?
Later, Lucy discusses with Fin her previous dreams of becoming a composer. What is the use of her talent now? Lucy’s priorities have drastically shifted, and she struggles to discern the meaning of her God-given musical talent.
Additionally, The Sky So Heavy addresses the true meaning of friendship. When Fin is offered food and shelter for himself and Max, he is faced with a choice: does he abandon Lucy and Noll after all they have done for him and how far they have come? Or does he give up the only chance he and Max may have for survival?
While I enjoyed the novel’s plot, the profuse foul language detracted from the story, as most of this language was unnecessary to the plot. I would not consider The Sky So Heavy an explicitly Christian novel. The only Christian element is that Noll is a Christian, but this is not mentioned until the end. Noll’s language does not reflect a Christian character; therefore, I was surprised when he said that he was a Christian.
The characters’ struggle to survive and the graphic descriptions of the skeleton-like people reminded me of what I have read about the Holocaust. Noll even describes the events that unfold after the nuclear attack as a “nuclear holocaust” (273). Throughout reading The Sky So Heavy, I struggled to discern what the novel’s point is, and I wondered why anyone would want to read a novel like this. My class wrestled with the same question regarding Holocaust Literature, and we concluded that it was to prevent a similar atrocity from occurring. I think this is a valid point and can apply to The Sky So Heavy, too, as the novel is a warning to prevent a “nuclear holocaust” (273). Even so, I think the point of The Sky So Heavy is not to take what we have, especially our family, for granted, and this point is consistent with Christian values.
The ending did not satisfy me because it left me with many questions, but as with Holocaust literature, I don’t think the ending is supposed to be satisfactory but to cause us to question the world around us.
Overall, The Sky So Heavy is a disturbing read. I recommend The Sky So Heavy to ages eighteen and up, but be aware that it contains foul language and disturbing content.
Young Adult Blogger
Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including six cats (and counting!), a dog, two fish, and many house plants. She attends Presbyterian College and is currently planning to double major in Math and Creative Writing. Kathryn loves writing, especially plays, and she completed and performed her first play, The Sexton, at 14. She’s not sure what she wants to do as a career, only that she wants to write, but is trusting that God has a plan for her life to use her in a powerful way. College takes up most of her time, but in her free time, she likes to read, play with her pets, and grow plants.
2 thoughts on “The Sky So Heavy: A Book Review by Kathryn Dover”
Thank you for this thoughtful review, Kathryn.
Kathryn, I appreciate your transparent reviews. Your review is helpful for people like me who do not enjoy reading books containing foul language or disturbing content. Thank you so much.