Author: Stacey Lee
Title: Under a Painted Sky
Genre: Young Adult; Historical; Literary
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: GP Putnam’s Sons (Random House)
Number of Pages: 384
What’s It About?
Samantha is the sixteen year old daughter of a Chinese immigrant living in mid-19th century Missouri. Trained in the violin, she has dreams of becoming a musician in an era that frowns upon female musicians and in a land that frowns upon non-white foreigners. Her father, with whom she is very close, has plans to move them out west to explore new possibilities in a land with less settlement and–as a result–less discrimination.
Then, in one moment, Samantha loses everything. She returns home one day to find the building in which she lived engulfed in flames–and her father trapped inside. Upon losing her father, her landlord takes pity on her and gives her a place to stay at his hotel. But what first appears to be pity soon shows itself as something else entirely.
Shortly after arriving at the hotel, Samantha is confronted by her landlord and told that she is responsible for the debt incurred by the loss of the building that had apparently burned due to her father’s negligence. To work off her debts, he informs her that he will be taking her in as a prostitute but, first, he needs to “test out the goods.” When he attempts to rape her, Samantha kills him.
Knowing she is sure to be put to death for the deed, Samantha goes on the run out west with a black slave girl from the hotel. To avoid suspicion, they disguise themselves as men heading out west in search of gold. As they journey along the Oregon Trail, they meet new friends and seek to avoid run-ins with the law as they claw their way to freedom.
Should You Read It?
If you enjoy a good young adult adventure story, you’ll love this book–particularly if you enjoy history of the American south or the American west. The author captures the racial tension of the time, as well as the early notion of the American Dream that transcended ethnic lines. The story can be likened to Huckleberry Finn–including the themes of travel, race, and companionship. If enjoy that sort of historical adventure story, I would definitely give this book a shot.
Links and References
Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads
Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, Pop Goes the Reader, The Social Potato
Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com
Other Books By Stacey Lee: Under a Painted Sky is Stacey Lee’s debut novel.