Published by Putnam Juvenile on March 17, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
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Samantha doesn’t know what she wants in life, but she knows it’s not this: stuck on the edge of the American frontier, the only Chinese girl around. It’s that moment of discontent that author Stacey Lee drops us in her debut novel, UNDER A PAINTED SKY. At first, that rush and chaos left me a bit unsure of where this novel was going and if I wanted to be along for the ride.
But then a double tragedy cuts main character Samantha’s foundation out from under her, while the novel finds its feet. She’s forced to flee—not back to the comforts of New York City, but onward, into the heart of the 1849 American West.
An outlaw wanted for murder, Samantha escapes with a runaway slave, Annamae. What begins as an alliance of convenience becomes a deep, loving friendship forged through shared hopes, perseverance, and respect. The two girls—posing as boys—join up with an easy-going trio of cowboys and rush headlong onto the famed Oregon Trail. But danger waits ahead, and bounty hunters pursue behind.
UNDER A PAINTED SKY is beautifully told, mixing light-hearted antics with real danger and real love. Sammy and Andy—as the girls become known—are two Americans who are told by their countrymen that they are other, less than. Yet for all those who would bar their entrance into a true, full life, Sammy and Andy keep going and never give up hope for something better. In a world on the brink of upheaval and change, these two brave girls plunge into a future of their own making with heads held high.
Like the rush of the beginning, I thought the ending could have slowed down just for a moment, really give us a chance to savor the climax and denouement. But then again, I’ve never met a descriptive tangent that I don’t want to take out to dinner and a movie and really get to know. Overall, I truly adored this book and look forward to what author Lee does next.