Above the Sky by J.W. Lynne
Above the Sky has a familiar-sounding premise: teens are coming of age in a society with mysterious strictures that they take for granted but we readers know don’t make sense. Seven, our main protagonist, takes us on a journey as she discovers that her world isn’t what it seems. Sounds like a fairly straightforward dystopia, right? The answer, as readers move on with the plot, is no. It’s not that straightforward at all.
Basically, what happens is we get to experience Seven’s journey as she goes from finding out what she’s supposed to do with her life (be a doctor), to taking her sister’s place to chase after a love interest she’s barely even had any (physical) contact with, to being trained as a warrior for mysterious reasons in order to fight the threat that lingers Above the Sky, to finding out everything is way more complex than any of this seemed to begin with. Along the way, major and minor side characters appear and become more ore less important in believable ways. One of the most riveting scenes in the book involves an action sequence while our characters are under fire and Seven has to decide what to do with extremely limited vision and knowledge of the situation. It’s a truly excellent way to frame a narrative like this, and Lynne delivers time and again on character moments like that.
The plot revelations are spaced out in a satisfying way, such that just as I got settled in to how I thought the plot was going, Lynne introduced a new wrinkle that kept me guessing. It’s difficult to know who the bad guys or good guys are, and as you discover more about the outside world with Seven, it becomes more alluring and more urgent to know who’s who even while the confusion mounts. Meanwhile, the teen drama, training sequences, and discoveries about the characters are what one might expect from standard YA dystopias, but they’re all so well written that I never found any of it remotely boring. Instead, the book is an absolute page-turner from cover-to-cover.
When we finally start to really see that there’s more to the world than Seven has been allowed to find out, it just ups the tension yet again. Lynne truly weaves a story that keeps readers guessing even while investing enough in each major act to slow things down and allow readers to ponder the events and get used to the “new normal” even as Seven does. It’s a great way to write a book like this, and it definitely kept me engaged all the way through.
My major complaint with the book is the way the plot was driven at the end. (MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW.) I wasn’t surprised to find that Seven was pregnant, but the solution to it seems impossible. She and Six are to swap places and somehow Six is supposed to somehow be competent in all the things Seven was doing while also passing herself off as Seven while Seven does the same back home with Six? And they’re going to swap places multiple times? I just… find it really hard to buy into as a real solution. It pressed my suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point. I’m definitely going to read the next book, because I’m sold on the world and the mysteries happening there. The characters are great, too. I just wish the ending hadn’t been so hard to swallow. (/END SPOILERS)
Above the Sky is a thrilling read that has me wanting more. There are so many different mysteries being teased here that it is impossible not to want to know what’s going on. The characters are strong as well, and Lynne shows she’s not above serious tragedy happening for the sake of the story. I am invested, and I’ll be reading more.
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