Title/Author: A Sky for Us Alone by Kristin Russell
Page Count: 336 Pages
Genre: Young Adult Gritty Drama
Obtained: I borrowed this from my local library
GR Summary:In Strickland County, there isn’t a lot of anything to go around. But when eighteen-year-old Harlowe Compton’s brother is killed by the Praters—the family who controls everything, from the mines to the law—he wonders if the future will ever hold more than loss. Until he meets Tennessee Moore.
With Tennessee, Harlowe feels for the first time that something good might happen, that he might’ve found the rarest thing of all: hope. Even as she struggles with the worst of the cards she’s been dealt, Tennessee makes Harlowe believe that they can dare to forge their own path—if they only give it a shot.
But as Harlowe searches for the answers behind his brother’s death, his town’s decay, and his family’s dysfunction, he discovers truths about the people he loves—and himself—that are darker than he ever expected. Now, Harlowe realizes, there’s no turning back.
A powerful story of first love, poverty, and the grip of the opioid crisis in the rural South, Kristin Russell’s gorgeous debut novel asks a universal question: When hope seems lost, are dreams worth the risk?
Character | 7.25 out of 10
Harlowe, Tennessee, & Omie could literally be anyone from anywhere. They felt very realistic but cookie cutter at the same time due to only seeing a small portion of their lives over a very short amount of time. Harlow and Tennessee are both going through some awful shit that continues to spiral out of their control. Within the containment of the story, they are relatable kids next door type characters. The romance is unnecessary but it doesn’t feel forced or try to be more than an attraction between two kids.
Atmosphere | 9 out of 10
This book has an easy backwoods country feel to it that doesn’t try to make you believe you’re in the south. It doesn’t over do it with the “ain’t”s and the “ya’ll”s like so many other southern set novels do. It’s just there in the way the sentences are structured, the way the oppressive heat is described, the way Mama Draughn cares for everyone. Even down to the damn pride of Harlowe’s mama acting like nothing is wrong even though everything is.
Writing Style | 7.5 out of 10
Kristin Russell has the perfect writing style for this type of novel. Her sentence structure, and alternating length patterns lend to keeping the ambling southern tone without sacrificing the pacing of the plot. It was frustrating at times because she does do far more telling of events/feelings than showing which would have made particular scenes more impactful.
Plot Progression | 8 out of 10
The concept for this novel was extremely interesting and relevant for this day and age. Harlowe’s quest that see-sawed between being for truth or revenge to just trying to not become another statistic in a stagnant mining town where people are born, work in the mines, have a family, and die. I love how he just ended up with more and more questions every time he thinks he’s getting somewhere and eventually just has to make a decision of what he’s going to do. The romance between Tennessee & Harlowe was really unnecessary for the plot but I was happy that Russell didn’t make it into a “OMG I just met you and I love you and let’s get married” type of story. They were just two teens attracted to each other and leaned on each other for support in a really crappy situation. And that was okay.
Intrigue | 8 out of 10
I didn’t read much into what this novel was about before I picked it up so I was really surprised that it revolved around the opiod drug crisis in Appalachia. It hasn’t been something that I’ve seen be a huge factor in YA literature in the past so having this uber relevant conflict as part of the overarching backdrop was really cool. Since the story is written in medias res style you don’t really get a full sense of what it going on, what happened before, or what’s going to happen next which really kept me thinking about what was going to happen next while I was reading.
Logic | 5 out of 10
Since this book is written in medias res style, the logic was really confusing for me. Like, everything was probable and could actually happen but because the POV was so limited with no back story, it was hard to follow the motivations and thought processes of the characters and some of the conflicts.
Enjoyment | 7 out of 10
I did enjoy this book and I’m sure it’s going to be a book that I’ll be thinking about for a little while. It was an interesting look at life in a small town that is suffering from poverty and drug usage. The language reminded me of growing up in a similar style town and I appreciated the snapshot of Harlowe’s life.
Total Score: 51.75 / 7 = 7.4
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars