Review: Sky on Fire

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Sky on FireSky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne
Series: Monument 14 #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends on May 28, 2013
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 212
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .

First Sentence: “To whoever finds this: here’s a math problem for you.”

If I reviewed this book with just one word, that word would be UGH. Honestly, I enjoyed Monument 14 when I read it last year. I’m not sure whether it’s actually better than Sky on Fire or if, because of my monumental reading challenge, I was just happy to read something so fast-paced. Either way, Sky on Fire is just sad. I hate making such a pronouncement, but the quality of the writing, the flat characters, and the discomfiting portrayal of women combined to make this a horrid read for me.

Warning: There will be spoilers all up in this bitch.

On the plus side, Sky on Fire probably only took about an hour of reading time all told. It’s just 210 pages, so it flies by. Its brevity is the big selling point. The other positive I can offer for Laybourne’s series is that the world building does have promise. I like that the world really does seem pretty fucked, and that she’s willing to kill off characters; I would like it more if she killed off all of them. The idea of an airborne toxin affecting different blood types in varying ways is interesting too. Unfortunately, a good idea didn’t help much, since I hated the plot, writing and characters.

We’ll start with the characters. I’ve read two books in this series now and have yet to see any character development. Things happen and the kids do change somewhat, but not for any discernible reason. Shit just happens. For example, Astrid, pregnant and the object of Dean’s affections, tells him that it was nice of him to stay with her in the store, but that she won’t have sex with him. Nothing really changes, but they have sex either that day or the next day and suddenly she likes him. Apparently this nerdy virgin who had no experience whatsoever before must have been a mind-blowing lay. *rolls eyes* So, yeah, Astrid changed, but there was nothing to explain why she supposedly likes Dean rather than Jake.

Or, how about this? At the end of the first book, we learned of Astrid’s pregnancy. This was my first really bright red flag in the series, but I still wanted to give book two a try. How terrible is it to be a pregnant teenager? Pretty awful in most circumstances. How about if there are no doctors around to help with the birthing? That’s definitely worse. And what if you’re in the middle of an apocalypse? Worst time ever to have a kid. This is pretty much fact. Yet, somehow, both Jake and Astrid are OVERJOYED at the fact that they will be bringing spawn into the world. No. Yes, these kids are idiots, but, fuck, even they should realize that this is the worst fucking thing that could be happening.

Let’s talk about the girls in this book. The way they are portrayed makes me very uncomfortable. The strongest girl in the book is Astrid, pregnant in the middle of the apocalypse. She does actually help save them. Yay! But she’s also in the middle of an asinine love triangle and apparently wants to be with whichever guy had sex with her last. So . . . less cool. Then there’s Sahalia, who does nothing but cry and have guys attempt to rape her. She’s also thirteen. The younger ones serve no purpose to the plot. Oh, there’s another girl who’s used as a hostage. And another one who does save the group on the bus a couple of times, but then always runs off crying and I’m pretty sure gets left behind entirely, though they’re going to go get her in book three. Still, they freaking fly off to fucking Canada and leave her. This is how much women matter.

The writing drove me bonkers. It’s repetitive and redundant, like my description. The sentences are simple, especially in Alex’s sections. The narration is split between brothers Dean and Alex, as they group has split into two. Alex’s notes are monotonous. I don’t know how something non-verbal can be monotonous, but this is. Simple sentences with few two or more syllable words. “We did this. We did that.” down to mundane details that have nothing to do with the overall plot. Both brothers seem to be writing journals of some sort, but it’s unclear when they’re writing them. The bottoms of each page indicate the time or location of the entry, but they sometimes reference things the characters don’t know yet, like they’re being compiled much later. For example, Dean mentions that the smoke kept the toxins in the air from affecting them though they didn’t know that yet. That’s something they couldn’t have learned until at least the last few chapters, but that was in the middle of the book.

Speaking of smoking, that plot element may have disgusted me more than the sexism. Apparently cigarette smoke clears the air of the dangerous elements. Yay! Children, cigarettes are good for you. Was this book endorsed by Marlboro or something? Ugh. There are so many other things that could have been used to clear the air, like incense or candles. It really had to be fucking cigarettes? This sends an awesome message to children.

In no way can I endorse this book. It’s certainly not a good choice for a reader like me. I suspect Laybourne is trying to target reluctant readers, but easy-to-read writing can be better than this. However, if you can look past flat, unlikable characters and questionable messages, then maybe you’ll like this series. Every book works for someone, right? All I know is that no force in the ‘verse could make me read any more.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I’m too damn old for this nonsense.'”

15 responses to “Review: Sky on Fire”

  1. meg says:

    Ugh, thanks for the warning. I liked Monument 14 and thought it had really excellent sequel potential but unfortunately it sounds like all of the things that irritated me about the first book are just going to get worse. Too bad.

    • Christina says:

      That’s pretty much how I feel. I mean, I liked book one, and I want to believe that was because it had merit. I couldn’t find almost anything to like about this one, sadly.

  2. Amy says:

    It’s too bad that you didn’t like this. I actually liked it better than the first one. I was so bored reading Monument 14 and this one at least had an outside of the store perspective. I did think that a lot of the stuff was eye roll worthy though. Great review chick!!

  3. Faye M. says:

    Wow, sounds like a train wreck if you ask me. I ain’t going to read this, although I was mildly interested in the series at first. I also read some of your status updates and gosh, they sounded kind of awkward and… overly simple. Another reason to avoid!

    Faye @ The Social Potato

  4. So I read this book a couple months ago and I rated it a 3, but I have no idea why considering I don’t care enough to read the next book.

    I hated the way she ended Sky on Fire, she could have just let it be a real ending rather than stretch it into another book. I was also pissed off that it was only 212 pages when there could have been so much more!

    I thought Astrid was the only one that had any character development (albeit very little). Dean was likeable enough, though he was crazy. I loved the outside/inside aspects, but again there could have been so much more! There was no reason for the book to be this fast paced!

    The fact that Astrid and what’s his face were happy that she was pregnant was quite ridiculous and the fact that Dean is all ready to help shoulder some of the responsibility for the baby is even more ridiculous and stupid.

  5. KM says:

    Yikes! That bad, huh? This book doesn’t even sound good to me, and normally a negative review from you would be an endorsement for me. lol!

    The whole pregnant thing reminds me of “The Walking Dead.” They had this in seasons 2/3. One of the women got pregnant, and she FREAKED OUT. She tried to give herself an abortion with morning-after pills, but her husband convinced her that having a child would bring hope into the world as opposed to more death. It was really poignant, and I thought they discussed the issue really well. I feel like this sort of topic should be discussed a lot – like, it would have been okay for Astrid to be happy about the baby if she went through some soul-searching for like, an entire book, you know? She could have come to some kind of realization that it was worth the risk. But without that, it feels contrived IMHO.

  6. Oh man, this one just sounds all kinds of bad. The part about the cigarette smoke actually clearing the air really bothers me! I guess in a way it would never clear the air and just make you get cancer and die slower so maybe it’s the lesser of two evils. Still *eyeroll* for sure.

    I have the first book in this series on my shelf still and I am so damn torn on if I should even bother to read it or not. I mean if it gets that bad in the sequel, do I really want to start the series? *ponders*

  7. Aw, that’s a shame! I’ve been eyeballing MONUMENT 14 for quite some time and only my massive (and continually growing) TBR stack has kept me from buying it. I think I can hold off a bit longer considering this second installment sounds so disappointing.

  8. GillyB says:

    I don’t understand! I was pretty sure I liked Monument 14? i remembered a few weird quirks in the writing. But OOF. I was not a huge fan of those quotes on your Goodreads review. That was… not good. And don’t get me started on little miss pregnant love triangle. Sexism in books is one of the many things guaranteed to send me into a rage. I think, sadly, I’ll have to pass on this, even though I’ve become friends with the author on Twitter and she seems really nice.

  9. Sponsored by Marlboro? I worked for them once upon a time, and I can totally see that 😉

  10. Lilian says:

    Your favorite quote fits so perfectly.

    I have a copy of Monument 14, which I probably won’t read until Halloween or something. Gauging my poor memory, I don’t remember anything I’ve read after a week much less several months.

    That thirteen year old gives me a bad feeling. The rape part is just twisted. >__< Why would guys want to rape her? Are they all pedophiles? She barely has boobs! I have to give you props for finishing a .5 star book. I’m in the middle of one and I honestly rather watch paint dry than go back to it. *cries* The only reason I haven’t DNFed it isn’t because I think it’ll get better (I’ve resigned to the fact that its hopeless,) but so I can take my feelings out on a review. Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

  11. Kat Balcombe says:

    *lights up* ahhh, nothing like smoking in a book for teens. Yeah, I’m 31 years old and therefore I’ve made my own choices, but I don’t understand why you would choose that as the secret weapon during an apocalypse.

    And no matter how stupid you are, being pregnant in an apocalypse is not going to be exciting….

  12. Yeesh. The first one was a 3 for me, but barely, because while I liked the fast pace there were so many squicky things in it–and it sounds like all the squicky got SO MUCH SQUICKIER! Ugh, I do not understand Sahalia at all. The pregnancy thing already made me nuts in the first book, but hearing you describe how it’s handled in book two makes me bonkers.

    On the other hand, your review made me laugh. From the “UGH” to the wish that all the characters were killed, I could totally feel your pain.

  13. LOL. Just a big whopping LOL from me.

    I liked this book, but I also turned my brain off while reading, and yes, I agree that some of it is whack, like smoking to clear the air lol. And pregnancy, that’s my deal breaker. Ugh, Astrid.

    Actually whenever I see the name Astrid I think of The Office when Jan names her baby Astrid but Michael Scott keeps pronouncing it Ass turd. Lol.

  14. Kate McMurry says:

    I personally have stopped reading dystopians/post-apocalypse YA novels. I find them incredibly depressing. I loved your review of this one, though. I found it far more entertaining than any such book itself, especially the part about how insane it is of the teen characters to rejoice in the prospect of bringing a helpless baby into a hellscape.

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