Do issue books bother you? Do you find yourself wishing they weren’t so in-your-face with things? We get it. Cancer sucks. Or yes, I see now that drugs are bad. I didn’t know that before. I’m so glad there’s a book on it now. I don’t mean to pick on issue books — they have their place. But I feel that they tend to be over-the-top and way too dramatic.
Well, guess what. The Waiting Sky is an issue book.
And I loved it.
We start out our story in the eye of the storm (and I use that metaphor on purpose). 17-year old Jane (not Janey) is remembering her mom’s words, pleading with her to come back home. Meanwhile, she is hunting down a tornado with her brother Ethan, and the rest of his tornado chasing team. The comparison between her mom and the tornado may come across as a bit heavy-handed (see over-the-top and dramatic from above), but it does work as a good extended metaphor.
You see, Jane doesn’t live in Oklahoma with her brother, chasing down tornadoes. She’s visiting him from her home in Minnesota, where she lives with her mom. Her alcoholic mom. Her alcoholic mom who recently drove Jane and her best friend, Cat, home from the mall. Drunk. And they got in an accident. A fairly serious accident. They drove away, not even knowing if anyone else involved was alive.
So now she finds herself in Oklahoma. Cat wants her to be there. Ethan wants her to be there. Jane wants to be with her mom. This is why I love this book. This book is about alcoholism. But it’s not about how terrible the disease is. It’s not about the dangers of alcohol and how it can destroy the mind and body if abused. Leave that to the PSAs. This book is about what alcoholism does to those who love those who have it. And it’s pretty spot-on.
Full disclosure time. Someone quite close to me is an alcoholic in recovery. I could not be happier with where this person is right now. But when things were bad, it was awful. Not just for this person, but for the close friends and family. All I wanted to do was be there and give this person whatever it was that was needed. But you know what was needed? For me to step away. For me not to know, at any given moment, if this person was sober or drunk — or even alive or dead. That tore me apart. This person needed to get better on their own, though, or else it was meaningless. I became edgy around alcohol, and couldn’t imagine how people could drink the way they did. I have healed, but it sucked. It’s almost worse now, looking back on it, than it was during that time, because I was fairly numb to it all.
Well, this is where Jane is. She wants to do nothing but be there for her mom. She wants to help pay the bills, even though she knows that a lot of that money is spent at the bar. She believes that’s at least better than her mom being evicted. And how could anybody else know what was the best thing for her to do? And my goodness, how could Ethan ever have a beer? As if leaving home to go to Oklahoma wasn’t bad enough, that’s like a slap in the face.
This book deals with all of that. It talks about Al-Anon (quick, show of hands: who knows what Al-Anon is?). It talks about dependency (though not with that term). It is about Jane searching for strength to make difficult choices — choices she doesn’t even know she has to make.
I must stop the review now. This is way too long. But if you’re looking for a book that deals with how alcoholism affects those around the alcoholic, this is the book for you.
My rating (perhaps a bit biased because the subject matter is so close to me):
5 out of 5 fish.
P.S. Lara reveals a pretty big YA meme secret today on her blog.
One thought on “The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin”
I *really* dislike issue books. Most of them are definitely way too in-your-face. I’ve been in the same situation you were in twice with family members. As I read that paragraph, it was like I wrote it about myself. It was very difficult to reconcile helping and enabling and stepping away. I’m a little touched by your review, and I’m looking forward to picking up this book and reading it. (Just don’t try to convince me to read more issue books…)