When I picked up And Then The Sky Exploded by David Poulsen from NetGalley, I must have missed this is a book designed for middle school aged readers, so I am going to review this on a curve. I am going to think back to younger me and ask- would I have enjoyed this book?
The story begins Chris at his great-grandfather's funeral. As the family is traveling to the gravesite, Chris sees protesters off to the side calling his "GG" a killer and a murderer. Chris researches why the protesters would do this and finds his GG was part of the Manhattan Project and was responsible for the creation of the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki.
This is also the story of Yuko, who was a school aged child when the bomb was dropped. She was badly injured, but survived the bomb. We read about her story throughout the book in bits and pieces.
Chris in his struggles decides that he would like to travel to Japan with his school's travel club. After a small battle, the club heads to Japan, where Chris begins to see an image of a little girl in a school uniform following him around. Will Chris find what he needs to be able to forgive or change his ideas about his great grandfather?
The main story of the book is really well done. Chris really does struggle with what his GG did. The question of a past generation's actions reflecting on the present generation is greatly focused on in this book. Chris struggles with his own image of his GG and this new information. We can see the information begins to taint Chris' view of his GG.
The trip to Japan was also well done. One can feel Chris' need to get to Nagasaki to see what happened. His trip to the Peace Park was well done and well written about. The closure he gets was also an incredible scene.
I called the above, the main story because there is also a lot written on football. Chris is part of a 9 person football team, along with his best friend. The book uses a lot of chapters to talk about his football games and the "big game" where Chris has to play a position he is not used to. During these chapters, I wondered why they were in there, other than to flesh the book out and to connect with younger readers. The big moment in the big game doesn't really grow Chris as a character or change what he is going to do in Japan, so I was left wondering what the purpose of this information was other than to have Chris do something other than research.
My main complaint was the end. I had a review copy and I am going to implore the editors to remove the ending I read. There is a very pivotal scene in Japan which changes Chris' life. It is the perfect ending, along with the opening lines of the chapter that follow. Right there, the ending is great and closes a well told story. It goes on to state that Chris and his darker skinned girlfriend go for a walk and are held up by skinheads who don't like the color of Chris' girlfriend's skin. It is so out of place, as race has not been an issue in any part of the book. I simply did not understand the inclusion of this scene and I really hope in the final edit, the scene is removed and the ending is re-written, as it has a perfect ending with the pivotal scene in Japan.
As a kid, I probably would have enjoyed this book. It was quick and well written. It was a good story and I liked the contrast of the two players in Chris and Yuko.
I gave this one 3.5 stars, but it would have been higher without that skin head scene.
Here is your Amazon link- And Then the Sky Exploded by David Poulsen
I want to thank NetGalley and Dundurn for the book. I received the book for free in exchange for an honest review.