Wednesday, February 1, 2017

THE SKY BETWEEN YOU AND ME BY CATHERINE ALENE - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is The Sky Between You and Me by Catherine Alene. Thanks so much to Raincoast Books for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review, as always, all opinions are my own.


**TRIGGER WARNING: Before I get into this review, I just want to say that this book deals with eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa, and I will be discussing these elements throughout the review.**

I want to talk about the way this story is told first because it was very different from the usual books I read. It is written in verse, so even though it is almost 5oo pages, I read it in a couple hours. The writing is, of course, very lyrical. I don't think I have ever read a novel told in verse before but I really enjoyed this unique element, as well as the way it was paired with a topic of this severity. I think that with issues such as eating disorders and other mental illnesses, the way a story is told makes a great difference to how it is perceived.

The story itself focuses on Raesha or Rae for short. She is a horseback rider who wants to compete in Nationals - and she's good, but not as good as she thinks she could be, not as good as her mom was. Rae struggles with balancing her passion for riding and living up to her mother's memory. She died after complications with cancer treatment, and Rae blames herself for not seeing that something was wrong.

A lot of elements go into Rae's inability to eat, the fact that if she loses a little more weight she'll improve their competition time and win, she doesn't think she deserves it, after what happened with her mom, her boyfriend is getting friendly with another girl, so she must not be enough. All these little elements of environment, trauma, grief - cumulate into a storm of despair.

My heart broke over and over again for Rae. She struggled to see that she was enough - for her dad, for her friends, for herself. And no matter what she did, she couldn't stop thinking about how many grams of fat, sugar - anything - was in the mouthful of lemonade she accidently swallowed when she was expecting water.

I'm by no means an expert in eating disorders, so I can't really speak to the author's portrayal of the disease in terms of accuracy, but I will definitely say that there is no worry of romanticization of mental illnesses we sometimes see in YA. Rae struggles so much, none of this was fun or idealized - it was raw and heartbreaking. In the author's note, Alene talks about her own struggles with anorexia, the ongoing battle she faces. But before I even read this, I knew she had to have a personal relationship with the illness. You can tell she has an intimate experience with what her character goes through, it really shows through her depiction.

I think the hardest part for me to read about in this novel was just before the people around Rae do something about her disorder - when she is at her darkest and she doesn't know what to do. Her friends aren't sure if they should turn a blind eye, or help, and her father is too busy to notice. But there is a moment that changes everything when everyone finally decides something needs to be done to help Rae. The part where Rae and her dad eat a cheese sandwich together wrecked me like no other scene has.

This wasn't a perfect book, it had its flaws - but it is a book I will never forget, and for that, I am forever grateful.