Saturday, February 20, 2016

Finding the Sky by A.M. Burns

Dillon Smith is so ready for the school year to be over, because he’ll get some relief from the gang that’s been pressuring him to join them. Unfortunately, when he stops for a soda, he’s implicated in the gang robbing a convenience store. Given his late father’s association with the gang, even his mother doesn’t believe him when he says he wants no part of it, and she sends him to live with his Uncle Bryan for the summer.

On the way to his uncle’s house in the country, he and Bryan rescue a hawk that was hit by a semitruck. They take it to some wildlife rehabbers living down the street, and they help open Dillon to experiences he never imagined.

When Dillon meets Scott, the son of the rehabbers, he falls in love, but the gang has a rough summer planned for him.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Being a teenager, it’s hard for me to find a book I can connect with. Reading Finding the Sky made me realize that there are books I can connect with.

As the final bell of Dillon's sophomore year, he would have never expected to end up where he is now. As Dillon walked home from school on the last day he stopped at a corner mart to get a soda. A gang called the Shanks started to rob the store. As the robbery started it ended just as fast with the cashier pulling out a pistol. Dillon was taken to the police station and was questioned about the incident.

When Dillon was home, his mother called her brother, Bryan. Bryan offered to take Dillon for the summer to keep him away from the Shanks and any other trouble. On Dillon's way to Uncle Bryan's, a truck hits a hawk. Dillon and Bryan picked it up to take to the rehabilitation center.

When the two get to Uncle Bryan's house Dillon meets a boy named Scott, the son of the rehabilitation center's owners. Anytime Dillon is around Scott he gets these weird feelings that he can't describe. As the summer goes on, Dillon's feelings get stronger, and the trouble with the Shanks increase.

I love the way this book flowed, I didn't want it to end! I look forward to reading more from A.M. Burns.

I usually don't read within this genre and haven't in a long time but I'm glad I took the time to pick this one up.

Dillon begins his summer at the police station, two kids are dead and he's suspected of being involved. Everyone thinks he's part of the Shanks, a local gang. His mom doesn't know what to believe. The only option she has is to send him to live with his Uncle Bryan for the summer.

When Dillon meets the neighbors’ son, Scott, he's happy to have someone his age to hang around with for the summer. Spending more and more time with Scott brings up feelings he's never quite understood or expected.

Finding the Sky is an innocent coming out love story. It was a quick sweet read.

Finding the Sky is surely to resonate with young adult readers, especially male teens who are going through a similar situation. The novel is fast-paced, innocent. There are difficult situations shown, but the author doesn't dive too deep, not enough to terrify the youngest of the readers or connect the oldest of readers.

Dillon is a quiet, unassuming kid dealing with a gang trying to jump him in at every turn, while having insecurities about his mixed race. Gang violence during a robbery that turns tragic is the main setup that leads Dillon to the country to live with his uncle.

From that point on, the book isn't too stressful for young readers, but there are still extenuating circumstances that affect Dillon and his uncle – all quickly resolved in a manner that is age appropriate. (Not Dillon's age of 16. Younger, more like 12 years old)

Dillon meets the neighbors, a married gay couple with an adopted gay son who is Dillon's age. I appreciate the singular sentence the author delivers about how Dillon questions how the only characters shown in the book are gay males, understanding, and tolerant in this small Texas town.

The only female shown is Dillon's mother, who is the most intolerant about any given subject. This is always a point of contention with me in LGBTQ novels. In the quest to show tolerance, all women are painted with an evil paintbrush. Being that this was a book for children, it makes it all the worse that there aren't any positive, female role models, or at least some that aren't the antagonists. All readers have a mother, living or dead, sisters, aunts, and teachers, and not all women are bad, or use their wiles to gain favor, simply because they aren't male or gay. I always fear this is a setup for future resentment and disrespect by impressionable readers. Men = good. Women = bad.

Dillon can talk to his uncle about nearly anything, which I appreciate and hope children all have someone they can count on without judgment. Scott, the friend/love interest who has Dillon questioning his sexuality, then accepting it, is also innocent, understanding, and patient with Dillon, to the point that he seems too perfect and not at all realistic. The respect Scott shows Dillon is sweet and admirable, but so much so than even an emotionally mature male would show his partner. Not at all the behavior of a 16-year-old. Not that I expected them to act like idiots, but the life experience to learn this level of respect, patience, and understanding doesn't happen overnight. Since this is fiction, flaws make characters relatable. There are no flaws in any characters but the sole female written on the pages.

There are hints that Scott's dads and Dillon's uncle are fooling around. Hints. While this is awesome and intriguing for adult readers, it sets an example that gays can't be monogamous. I'm reviewing this title for parents to use as a guide to whether or not their youngsters should read Finding the Sky. While this is so underlying, the youngest of readers won't pick it up, the older teens will. So I hope parents open a dialogue that no matter the sexual inclination, there are different types of relationships, none right or wrong. But I felt I should mention this in my review.

All in all, for the young adult readers' standpoint, especially young males, Finding the Sky will be a comfort read for them, without too much realism to terrify them.

Which brings me to adult readers, both male and female, who will find what the youngest readers thought appealing to be not quite enough of a hook. I enjoyed Finding the Sky, but felt it too fast-paced, too quick to gloss over the important details, which lead me to a feeling of disconnect.

Written in third person, the author tried to find a way for the reader to personally connect with the narrator by using first person inner monologue in italics. If anything, this had the opposite effect, because it was jarring, awkward, and out of the flow of the overall storyline.

Since I am an adult, and can only empathize with the younger readers, combining the first person italics issue with the stilted, wooden dialogue, and the too perfect characters, I felt three stars from the adult perspective was the most I could hand out, even if I believe most young adults would find it a 5 star read.

Young adult age range: 12+. Slight violence: known but not shown, even in the moment. First love/innocent romance and the journey to discover one's sexual identity.

Urban fantasy writer, falconer and all around good guy. Author of the popular Yellow Sky series.

A.M. Burns lives in the Colorado Rockies with his partner, several dogs, cats, horses, and birds. When he’s not writing, he’s often fixing fences, splitting wood, hiking in the mountains, or flying his hawks. He’s enjoyed writing since he was in high school, but it wasn’t until the past few years that he’s begun truly honing his craft. He is the president of the Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group: Having lived both in Colorado and Texas, rugged frontier types and independent attitudes often show up in his work.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Finding the Sky by A.M. Burns to read and review.

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