Tuesday, May 30, 2017

[Review] Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4.5 stars

Published: March 17th 2015

Goodreads Synopsis:
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.
This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.YA Westerns usually fall under the same premise. Girl lives normal life, something changes girl's life forever, girl must disguise self as a boy in order to either seek revenge or make it big out West. To me, it's an overused concept that can get tiresome after so many times unless it is well done.
Under a Painted Sky was  one of those well done Westerns. Our heroine Samantha has just lost her father and must head westward to stake her claims. But, given the times and the fact that she is both Asian and a girl, she must disguise herself as Sammy, and journeys west with her new friend Annamae, who in turn becomes Andy. They join up with a trio of cowboys - Cay and his cousin West, and their friend Peety. 

This was a very heartwarming book, and what I loved about it was how Sammy's relationships with others changed over the course of the novel for the better. Of course, there is her father, who, despite dying early in the story, remained a constant presence for her, one of strength and courage. She is initially wary of Annamae, but soon enough, she can't imagine parting ways with her, and it is this sisterhood that really took me. Their banter was playful and displays their strong bond over the course of several long weeks. 

She slumps back against the tree, causing her hat to lift off her forehead. "A man like Peety wouldn't be interested in someone like me."
"You mean someone good-looking, smart, and an expert cook to boot? No, you're probably right. You're his worst nightmare." 

Samantha's slow burn romance with West was great. Their pent-up tension wrung my insides and even made me cry at one point. 

Just seeing Samantha grow into a confident, self-assured heroine was a highlight of Under a Painted Sky. Even as I write this review I want to reread the book, hehe. 

Stacey Lee dealt with the racism and sexism of the time period in a great way, and I really wish there were more books out there like it, bringing on diversity while addressing the issues of the time. 

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