I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
And Then the Sky Exploded by David A. Poulsen
Release date: November 15th, 2016
Publisher: Dundurn Group
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction
When Christian learns his great-grandfather helped build the A-bombs dropped on Japan, he wants to make amends … somehow.
While attending the funeral of his great-grandfather, ninth-grader Christian Larkin learns that the man he loved and respected was a member of the Manhattan Project, the team that designed and created the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during the Second World War.
On a school trip to Japan, Chris meets eighty-one-year-old Yuko, who was eleven when the first bomb exploded over Hiroshima, horribly injuring her. Christian is determined to do something to make up for what his great-grandfather did. But after all this time what can one teenager really do? His friends tell him it’s a stupid idea, that there’s nothing he can do. And maybe they’re right.
But maybe, just maybe … they’re wrong.
Ever since visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial earlier this year with my students, I have been drawn to books about the dropping of the atomic bomb and its aftermath. I was overcome by the stories of those who survived. I was fortunate enough to have one-on-one discussions with those directly affected by this horrible event and was astonished to hear that they held no ill-will toward the people or nation responsible. The whole purpose of the memorial is to promote peace and educate future generations about the use of atomic weapons. This book stood out because it echoed these ideas.
The story mainly focuses on Christian, a teenager who is forced to confront his great grandfather’s involvement in the building of the atomic bomb. He’s conflicted on how he feels and begins to research the bombing of Hiroshima. Interspersed with Christian’s story is that of Yuko, an eleven year old who survived the bombing in 1945. While I enjoyed Christian’s journey, I wanted to know more about Yuko and the direct aftermath of the bomb. There is closure later on in the story, but it just didn’t feel like it was enough. So much more could have been done with this character to hit home just how devastating the bomb was.
While centred around such a heavy topic, the book was a quick read. It’s promoted as young adult, but could easily be labeled as middle grade. However, there are a few curse words here and there. The story is told from Christian’s point of view, meaning the writing is quite conversational. It’s honest and sounds like an actual teenager. This means that important informational is being transmitted, but in a accessible way. It’s kind of like a history class in disguise.
The main problem I had with the book was the ending. The whole book was about the atomic bomb, but then out of the blue comes a scene where there are a couple of skinheads confronting Christian and his girlfriend Zaina. It was like I was reading a completely different story! It didn’t fit and took away from emotional scene between Christian and a survivor of the bombing. Skinheads?!?! What?!?! No! Oh, and there is a paranormal storyline that doesn’t really go anywhere. It also was a bit out of place and I didn’t see the point of it.
Overall, And Then the Sky Exploded was an enjoyable book that taught important lessons about the atomic bomb, forgiveness and peace. I recommend it because of the history and emotional topic, but ignore the odd subplots, which sadly take away from the message being transmitted.