CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 6. . . .October 10, 2014
Earth & Sky.
Toronto, ON: Razorbill/Penguin Canada Books, 2014.
304 pp., hardcover & eBook, $18.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-670-06812-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-0-14-319316-6 (eBook).
Grades 8-12 / Ages 13-17.
Review by Rob Bittner.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
[The guy] is sitting off to the side of a bench on the other side of the street, mostly hidden behind a parked truck, but the instant my eyes slide over him, a sense of conviction jolts through me: he shouldn’t be there. My pulse skitters and my mouth goes dry, my skin feverishly cold. A ringing echoes between my ears, insisting that the guy is wrong, wrong, wrong.
My coping mechanisms are so ingrained that even as part of me responds with oh, God, not again, my hand is digging into the pocket of my jeans, finding the glass beads on my hemp bracelet. My fingers swivel each bead around the woven strings three times, in tandem with my silent mantra: Three times three is nine. Three times nine is twenty-seven. Three times twenty-seven is eighty-one. Three times eighty-one...
There’s a perfect dependability to math. No matter how many times you perform the same operation, the answer’s always the same.
Seventeen-year-old Skylar—Sky to everyone who knows her—is aware of things that not everyone can see. It’s not that she necessarily sees anything as explicitly different, but she knows when something seems wrong. Sky’s family is still recovering from the disappearance of her brother years earlier, and Sky, herself, is struggling to overcome her feelings of guilt. While on a field trip to the courthouse with her school one day, she notices something very, very wrong, and, at the same time, she sees a young man who seems out of place. When Sky confronts the young man—Win—a day later, her life is turned upside-down. Win, she discovers, is far from his own home. Really far. He is not from Earth, as it turns out. And to top it off, he needs her to help traverse time and space to find components of a weapon that will help release Earth from thousands of years of experimentation.
Earth & Sky is an intriguing novel in many respects. Crewe combines a time travel narrative with the story of a family in crisis. I found Sky’s emotional and psychological journey to be more appealing than the actual time travel portion of the story, though the various travels through time and space worked much better in the second half of the novel, in my opinion. Crewe is obviously a talented writer, but this particular title seems to have moved beyond her, at least in terms of the time travel part of the narrative—time travel is incredibly difficult to pull off. I definitely found the overall narrative to be thrilling and enjoyable, but the pacing in the end, was a flaw in my mind. I was hoping that the same level of urgency would stay consistent throughout, but the intensity only really kicked in during the last third of the novel.
One moment in which I was very much confused/concerned was a point in which Sky and Win show up in the past during a battle between American settlers and the Indigenous population at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. When Sky runs into a young boy at one point during this particular time travel episode, she manages to converse with him with no discernible difficulty. I questioned, first of all, that the boy would know English in any fluent way as a member of the Indigenous population. And secondly, even if he did, I am unsure how he would understand her 21st century American dialect with no trouble. This could have potentially been a non-issue if there was some sort of “universal translator” incorporated into the time travel technology. But seeing as there is no technology of the sort present in the novel, this particular incident very much threw me out of the story. The reason that this is so obviously jarring is that earlier, Sky’s inability to speak French leads to a moment in which she notes, explicitly, her inability to understand the local population.
In the end, with Sky trying to save the planet she knows and loves—hence the title—the novel works as an enticing and enjoyable piece of fiction that will keep lovers of sci-fi and time travel engaged beyond the previously noted concerns.
Rob Bittner is a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at the University of British Columbia and he is now a PhD candidate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC.
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