Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book Review: The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind

The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Grades 9-12. Flux, September 2009. Review copy provided by publisher.

Kirstin Cronn-Mills, I have a bone to pick with you. I picked up The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don't Mind as I lay in bed, just intending to read the first couple of chapters before going to sleep. But Morgan's voice drew me in so completely that I couldn't put it down and ended up staying up way past my bedtime.

I was tired the next day. But it was so worth it.

This is one you won't want to miss, folks.

Morgan lives in Central Nowhere, Nebraska. When life's too much for her, she drives out into the hills and screams her troubles into the sky. This year, her junior year, she's got a lot to think about. Her alcoholic dad verbally abuses her and her brothers. She's got a major crush on a gorgeous guy she works with (despite the fact that she's in a long-term relationship with a football player). Oh, yeah, and her next-door neighbor Tessa kissed her a couple nights ago. And she thinks she liked it.

The Sky Always Hears Me is a book about gray areas. There are no easy decisions here, which is one of the things I loved best about this book. Morgan's figuring out that things aren't always cut-and-dry. She cares about her boyfriend, but she's attracted to another guy. And there's Tessa - Morgan doesn't think she's gay (and it would be really hard to be gay, she admits, in a small conservative town), but she kind of can't stop thinking about Tessa's kiss.

Then there's her family. Morgan's dad is an alcoholic and her step-mom is a pushover. Morgan has two younger brothers whom she loves, but the only adult family member who sticks up for her is her grandmother. But over the course of the book, Morgan discovers some unsavory truths about the woman she cares so much about. Morgan will find, once again, that there are gray areas here.

Morgan's voice was the first thing that drew me into the story. She's got a very dry humor and she's kind of dripping with angst, but not in an annoying way. She can't wait to get out of her small town, away from her dead-end job bagging groceries. And that's why she goes out into the middle of nowhere and screams her angst into the hills.

Here's a little sampling of her voice:

Mrs. Anderson stalks away, glaring at me after our little exchange about the price of a gallon of milk. Yes, it's more expensive than it was in 1968, when the store opened. Yes, the price is correct. No, I don't put the extra money in my pocket. I smile as she throws me one more daggered look over her shoulder, because I maintain an air of professionalism at all times. But I imagine myself ramming a full grocery cart into her car. If I did it right - with the correct angle, enough space, and repeated rammings - I could scratch my initials in her door. (pg6)

I did feel like the novel dragged near the end, and Morgan's voice disappears a little bit, but this was a minor flaw in an otherwise stellar book. Highly recommended.

Read the Cynsations interview with Kirstin Cronn-Mills and more reviews at Book-Lover Carol, Books for Breakfast, Frenetic Reader, and Steph Su Reads.