ARC Review – Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard

22875507Title: Watch the Sky

Author: Kirsten Hubbard

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: The signs are everywhere, Jory’s stepfather, Caleb, says. Red leaves in the springtime. Pages torn from a library book. All the fish in the aquarium facing the same way. A cracked egg with twin yolks. Everywhere and anywhere. And because of them Jory’s life is far from ordinary. He must follow a very specific set of rules: don’t trust anyone outside the family, have your works at the ready just in case, and always, always watch out for the signs. The end is coming, and they must be prepared.

School is Jory’s only escape from Caleb’s tight grasp, and with the help of new friends Jory begins to explore a world beyond his family’s farm. As Jory’s friendships grow, Caleb notifies Jory’s mother and siblings that the time has come for final preparations.

They begin an exhausting schedule digging a mysterious tunnel in anticipation of the disaster. But as the hold gets deeper, so does the family’s doubt about whether Caleb’s prophecy is true. When the stark reality of his stepfather’s plans becomes clear, Jory must choose between living his own life or following Caleb, shutting his eyes to the bright world he’s just begun to see.

Huge thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Watch the Sky was an interesting read. It tells the tale of a boy whose step-father believes in ‘signs.’ Jory is not allowed contact outside of his family and is told to trust no one. It’s a weird situation, and that’s sort of my issue with this one.

Caleb, Jory’s father is a tough character to enjoy. He has this horrific strangle hold on his family because he’s convinced these signs are out to get him, sort of? He thinks in his strange hold behaviour that he is protecting his family, but he forces them to help dig a hole. There’s a scene where he gives Jory a schedule, and basically he gets two hours every night to sleep? And it’s horrific because no matter how much Jory wants to have a normal life, Caleb makes it next to impossible. A lot of his reasoning is also completely whacked out and he made me so mad!

And that’s just it — Jory’s family comes across trapped under Caleb. I spent a lot of the book questioning why they would even choose to stay with him and give up having a life and being who they all want to be. It just baffled me a lot of the time because it came across like Jory’s mother didn’t have much of a spine? Part of it, which I won’t spoil, makes sense, but there’s still this frustration that you want this family to leave him.

Still, this books has the trappings of a great middle grade story. Jory tries his best to try to be a normal kid at school in spite of the fact that everyone knows Caleb is insane. His insanity makes sense, it does! But it makes this novel so difficult to love at times. I question how Jory is supposed to function a lot of the time because he’s told to be ‘a man of the house’ but he has no concept of how to be social or make friends, and it’s just so sad.

Admittedly, the other issue I had was how anti-climatic the ending is. It just ends, and I didn’t feel like a lot of things were entirely resolved, outside of Caleb being right about Kit. Admittedly, when the major reveal happens (which was also a bit obvious and anti-climatic) it’s the first time Caleb behaves like a human being who cares in front of his step-son. It’s the first time he treats his family properly, and it’s oddly sweet, but at the same time a part of me was annoyed because of how long it took. Again, it makes sense in the context of the story, but perhaps the issue was me wanting to smack the characters!

I realize how hard I am being on this book, but I actually liked it a lot. For the most part my frustrations showed how much I was connecting with the story and trying to understand the motivations of Caleb. As a middle grade novel it treats a surprising amount about trying to do the right thing, but also how to stick up for yourself when someone is disrespecting who you want to be. Jory learns so much in the story and it’s easy to feel for him when he longs to be something his step-father isn’t seeing. Plus, Kristen Bubbard’s writing is really lovely, and even though think book made me cranky at times, it’s still a page turner and I still had to know what would happen in the end.

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