Book Title: Between Two Skies
Book Author: Jamie O’Sullivan
Page Count: 272
Publishing Date: April 25th, 2017
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date Read: April 29th, 2017Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review – Thank you!
Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life and the promise of love emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo.
Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.
Between Two Skies takes us inside the life of a girl who had a happy life before Hurricane Katrina hit, and the aftermath that she is forced to deal with after the storm. This book is heartbreaking, yet inspiring, at the same time, making it an ideal read for anyone who either has experienced loss from that terrible storm, or those who are interested in learning more about it.
This beautiful story begins with a small family in Bayou Perdu, which is a really small fishing town in Louisiana. This is the home of the main character in the book, Evangeline Riley, and her parents, grandmother, and older sister. While they do form quite the close-knit family, they their differences and arguments, same as any other family.
Evangeline’s mother owns a popular diner in the town, and her father works on boats to catch fish and shrimp – both of them bringing in an income that takes care of their little family. Plus Evangeline gets to help out on the water, fishing and just spending peaceful afternoons surrounded by what she loved most.
“Thoughts come to me when I’m on the water. It’s clear who I am out here. Not who I am compared to anyone else. Out here feels like the truth to me, the simple truth. earth, air, sky, water. A natural rhythm to life. This is our place in the world, and I know my place in it. The exact opposite of high school, where pretty much everything and everyone feels fake all the time.”
After a festival one day, Evangeline meets Tru, a boy she has to rescue when his boat becomes stuck. Instantly drawn to him, Evangeline hopes to see him again, and realizes that it might just be possible, since he is the cousin of one of the kids she knows.
When the news of the impending hurricane – which will become known as Hurricane Katrina, stirs up some fear in the townspeople, some of them choose to evacuate, while others seem to think that they will be fine. After all, they’ve seen some pretty nasty storms before, so they should be alright.
When evacuation becomes mandatory, Evangeline and her family drive up to stay with family in Atlanta, Georgia – safely away from the storm and the destruction that it is bringing to their small fishing town. Watching the damage on the news from far away, Evangeline and her family see everything that they’ve ever known and worked for completely flooded, destroyed, and torn away from them. Not to mention that Evangeline hasn’t heard from her best friend Danielle, and has no idea whether or not she got out before Hurricane Katrina hit Bayou Perdu.
And Evangeline wonders if she is ever going to see Tru again.
“I want to rewind to the day before my sixteenth birthday, when my whole life stretched out before me, sparkling like the sun on the clear water of a back-bayou channel. When my life had a rhythm and I knew my place in it.”
When she starts at a new school, she meets up with some new kids and she makes friends with them, and then the unthinkable happens – Tru winds up going to the same school as Evangeline. Though the odds, the two of them manage to get together and start spending time with each other, with a blossoming relationship forming – making Evangeline feel as though everything is going to be just fine.
And then things start to change again for Evangeline – Tru is whisked away from her because of something with his family, and she has no way to get in touch with him to find out where he’s gone. Her mother and father are arguing often – her mother wants to stay in Atlanta, and believes that it is the best place for the family, but her father wants to take a FEMA trailer and go back to Bayou Perdu, where he can go back to his job as a fisherman and do what he loves.
Torn between wanting to stay with her mother and her sister, who is suffering from the move to Atlanta in the first place, and going back with her father to the place she knows and loves, she wishes more than ever that she could have the chance to find Tru and be happy again.
“All I know is that when I look into my future, it’s not here. It’s in the place where I know myself: out there in that limitless place between two skies. Back home.”
The entire novel was written in a writing style that really grabbed my attention and made me want to keep reading – I grew to really love Evangeline’s character and couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen with her family. She knew what she wanted – she was happiest in her small fishing town and when the hurricane hit, she was devastated to see everything that she loved completely gone. But she managed to make the most out of everything she was faced with, and eventually she was able to begin piecing her life back together, bit by bit.
Evangeline’s romance with Tru was not a strong, in-your-face kind of relationship – it was more of a subtle and romantic kind, and it was slow to form, but you knew great things were going to happen along the way. The two of them were sweet together, and it was heartbreaking when Tru was taken away by his family. Watching Evangeline do everything she could to find him was inspiring, as she was determined to find the one that she was falling in love with, despite all of the bad things going on around her.
I really loved this novel – it made me feel so many emotions that it really was the kind of book that I will remember always. Learning about Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of a small family who was right in the middle of the destruction and had to deal with how bad it actually was is definitely an eye-opener. The author clearly has a wonderful talent for taking a horrible event and allowing the reader to see that even though all of that, true love can really shine through.
Guest review contributed by Here’s to Happy Endings. Kelly focuses on young adult book reviews, with author interviews, giveaways, and memes such as Waiting on Wednesdays, as well as participating in blog tours. She enjoys working with authors to promote books!