Publisher : Penguin Random House
Genre : Young Adult | Historical Fiction
Page Count : 384
Synopsis : Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.
This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship. (From Goodreads)
Before reading this book, I hadn’t read a historical fiction in the LONGEST time and I really missed it so you can imagine how excited I was to finally pick it up. Plus, I had never read a book about the California Gold rush so that doubled my excitement. And this book truly exceeded all the expectations I had for it which were already high considering a friend whose opinion I trust had read and loved it. And now I love it too. No, I adore it, so so much. AH!
The writing is breathtakingly beautiful. It’s refined and gorgeous and I could feel how much loss and grief Samantha was feeling just from the way the emotions were weaved through the narration. The narrative feels very personal, as if I were reading someone’s journal especially since it’s filled with the MC’s beliefs and superstitions as well as the way she sees the others and feels about them. I just honestly couldn’t get enough of the writing, it had me hooked. The little bits that made me double up are some french translations that were wrong gender wise.
I don’t think I will stop talking about the writing if something doesn’t stop me, the descriptions are just mezmerizing, the way the Oregon trail is described made me feel as if I were there, it’s so vivid and detailed. The author also uses the opportunity given by the time period to unpack racist, sexist stereotypes as well as slavery. This was not only done through the girls’ experiences along their travels but also throughout active dialogue between the two, discussing the anti-blackness Andy (Annamae) is subject to and how each one of them experiences racism differently.
Under a Painted Sky wasn’t what I expected it to be, in the best way possible. It is one of the most heartbreaking but also hopeful stories I’ve ever read. That’s how I came out of reading it, filled with hope for the characters as well as genuinely happy, which wasn’t the case for the biggest chunk of the book. understandably. Samantha, the main characters, and Anna mae are fugitives so you can imagine how full of hardships and obstacles their journey must be but through it all, they had each other, from start to finish.
I truly didn’t realize how much I was loving the book until I had to put it down and go to sleep but found myself not wanting to. The only critique I can give about the book is that a bit of the ending was a bit rushed. As a whole, it was just like I wanted it to be and I was extremely satisfied but I would’ve liked certain events that led up to that point to be more elaborated. I’m not complaining much though, because as I said before the ending made me feel very happy and hopeful because in a way left open so I could imagine that these characters that I came to love and care for will be okay no matter what.
This book has one of the best friendships I’ve ever read, such a tight-knitted, precious relationship. In fact, it felt like more than a friendship, some sort of unbreakable bond that’s created only by having just the only person to count on and trusting them with your life. Sammy and Andy were like sisters by the end of the book and seeing that develop and unfold was beautiful and touching. The girls had each other’s backs no matter what and could understand each other beyond words.
The characters all have a single thing in common, which is loss. They’ve all lost something or someone that they haven’t really gotten over, and that thought was heartbreaking and made me forget that in fact, they are teenagers or barely adults (although, in that time period, people grew up faster and 16 then isn’t the same as 16 now). There was just so much hurt, life experience and wisdom in all of them than I couldn’t help but get attached to every single one of them.
I loved Samantha, she may come off as dull and boring at the start of the book but I think that was done on purpose, because with the development she goes through, she blooms and grows more and more confident. She’s actually very smart and resourceful. Annamae came across to me as an old soul, she’s so full of knowledge and like she had to age before her time came (understandably), she has a sort of quiet strengh and determination embed in her that made her my favorite.
Peety, West and Cay were unexpectedly amazing. When I first started reading, I thought they’d be just ephemeral, people they’d meet along the way and that’s it. But then, when I realized they were there to stay, I worried about them not having depth and being there just for the sake of the girls having companions not as wholesome people but I was wrong and I’m glad I was. The cowboys are amazing, each one of them crafted with depth and attention to make them as real as possible through Sammy’s eyes. I loved how they brought this sort of lightness to the story because they loved to tease and joke around. The banter between them and the girls flowed nicely and naturally and I found myself giggling quite a few times. By the end of the story, all five of them made up their own little family on the road.
I’d recommend this book to everyone, reading it was an amazing, emotional journey that you don’t want to miss out on, full of thoughtful and thought provoking discussions that will leave you thinking about it well after you finish it.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Under a Painted Sky? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.