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The Weight of Our Sky

Review

The Weight of Our Sky

THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY by Hanna Alkaf is, from my research, the only full length novel by this author. Alkaf describes herself as the grumpiest Hufflepuff in her bio on her website and from a Ravenclaw to a Hufflepuff, let me say, thank you for this experience. In terms of similar books to put THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY into context, the only one I could think of while reading was THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini. They both have a Muslim main character and the climax of both takes place during a dangerous event that has led to the death of their friend. Apart from the general tone, that’s where the similarities really end --- although I definitely prefer THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY.

"This book was phenomenal, from cover to cover. The characters were pulled off beautifully and the execution was phenomenal. I hated putting it down..."

THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY takes place in Malaysia during the Malaysia race riots of 1969. This isn’t just something going on in the background for the giggles; the riots literally impact the characters all the time and keep the tension up through the book. The main character is a young Malaysian girl named Melati. Melati has high functioning OCD and, with this book taking place in 1969, it isn’t in any way, shape, or form controlled, which makes her believe she is being controlled by a djinn. After trying to cure her with money she and her mother don’t have, Melati lies and says she is cured to keep her mother from worrying and so she can try to live a normal life.

Melati ends up going to the movies one fateful day with her friend Saf after school before everything goes south on Petaling Street and they get cornered by Chinese rioters who have been killing Malaysians. A woman named Auntie Bee is able to save Melati because she doesn’t look Malaysian but unfortunately for Saf, she does and has to be left behind to her death --- this proves very important to Melati’s character development. Now Auntie Bee is the most flawless, beautiful, considerate person alive and takes Melati home with her where they hold out for most of the rioting. Melati meets Uncle Chong, Frankie and Vince. A good chunk of this book is Melati’s interactions as a Malaysian with this Chinese family she has found herself seeking shelter with and the interactions are so very human. The rest of the novel is Melati trying to find her mother in these violence ridden areas while volunteering for the Red Cross with Vince.

Now, I usually don’t enjoy historical fiction. If I had to pick my least favorite genre, it would probably be historical fiction. Heck, I picked this novel for my list without realizing it was historical fiction. However, this is an amazing book. It beautifully portrays humans helping humans and, while I don’t have a lot of experience in the mental health field, the compulsive behavior and ticks that control Melati’s life as they are described in the book do an exemplary job in showing how helpless she feels. All the characters feel human, which is the highest compliment I can give them, even the ones that don’t get a lot of page time. They are all grieving and Hanna Alkaf does a great job in portraying that how people grieve is different from person to person. This book does drag on in places, but I get it. The dragging is there to build tone and give us that sweet, sweet character development, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to read an entire chapter about how Melati thinks Frankie is getting scarier.

Now for the verdict: This book was phenomenal, from cover to cover. The characters were pulled off beautifully and the execution was phenomenal. I hated putting it down, even for the things that immediately needed my attention. I had to read THE KITE RUNNER in my sophomore year, but I enjoyed this THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY so much more and it is officially going on my shelf --- in place of THE KITE RUNNER, no less. Read this book, please, it will literally satisfy any itch you might have.

Reviewed by Caitlin L., Teen Board Member on March 19, 2019

The Weight of Our Sky
by Hanna Alkaf