Verdict: Much more than just an interesting, fast-paced page-turner; in the complex characters and themes, the young adult reader can learn more about what it means to be a teenager, why one should always appreciate what one has, and how to handle the many challenges life presents.
An action-packed, cinematic work of Science Fiction, Book of the Sky God follows not one protagonist in particular, but rather offers a broader view of the apocalypse as a whole.
Although Juniors in high school Henry Lipton and Katie Chase may seem too dissimilar to have anything to do with each other, an intricately woven plot brings the teens, as well as their families and friends together in a communal effort to prevent the imminent apocalypse as predicted by the Mayans. On this journey, Katie, Henry, and Henry’s best friends, Ram, Nina and Laila Rajathani discover as much about their human problems as they do alien and celestial intervention in the affairs of the human race.
While this story deals with content similar to that of an action movie, it takes its time developing, allowing the reader to delve further into the personal lives of the large cast of characters. With few exceptions, author Laura Markowitz avoids the classic archetypes expected of Young Adult fiction. Katie Chase serves as the perfect example of this complexity of character development, because while she can be caustic and cynical regarding the world around her, she also maintains the sensitivity necessary to care for her Grandma Jayne, who is suffering from severe Alzheimer’s Disease. Katie’s ability to display a wide series of traits is symptomatic of the care used by Markowitz in creating each of her characters.
That being said, a few minor details regarding writing style should be noted. First, phrases such as “His mother was a total nerd!” (33) and “Henry yearned for his father’s approval, and the Professor despised him” (54) tell, rather than show the reader what emotions and realizations the characters are experiencing. Also, presumably with the intention of suspense-building, Markowitz reveals little of the mysteries with which the characters are grappling; instead, she maintains a vagueness that is all at once jarringly shattered by the answers to the multitude of plot-related questions asked by many characters. One example is that throughout the story, it is implied that one of the greatest mysteries is whether or not the Mayan calendar really does predict the end of the world. Instead of a profound realization, the truth is revealed in a passing comment the otherwise would seem inconsequential. In order to leave the aura of mystery undisturbed, it might be wiser to instead slip in clues on which the reader can form their own suspicions as to where the plot is headed.
Despite being a work of Science Fiction aimed at teenagers, this work deals with the sometimes ugly issues with which many teenagers have to deal. Intermingled between scenes of alien-human telepathy and artifact-hunting are some very raw, poignant instances of teenagers shouldering the many burdens of adolescence. While Laila deals with her confusing mixture of love and hatred for Henry, Katie is forced to act as caretaker for her Grandma Jayne. In one scene, she wonders aloud why people don’t appreciate happiness while they have it, since so much has happened to her between a blissful childhood and an angst-fillled, confusing adolescence. These brief glimpses into the lives of these characters serve to both flesh out their personality as well as relate them to the reader.
The Book of the Sky God offers much more than just an interesting, fast-paced page-turner; in the complex characters and themes, the young adult reader can learn more about what it means to be a teenager, why one should always appreciate what one has, and how to handle the many challenges life presents.
Reviewed by Claire Colburn for IndieReader