Review: Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman

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

Review: Sky Jumpers by Peggy EddlemanSky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman
Series: Sky Jumpers #1
Published by Random House BFYR on September 24, 2013
Genres: Adventure, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: YA Books Central
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two-half-stars

What happens when you can’t do the one thing that matters most?

12-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. The bombs destroyed almost everything that came before, so the skill that matters most in White Rock—sometimes it feels like the only thing that matters—is the ability to invent so that the world can regain some of what it’s lost.

But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of air that covers the crater the town lives in—than fail at yet another invention.

When bandits discover that White Rock has invented priceless antibiotics, they invade. The town must choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from disease in the coming months or to die fighting the bandits now. Hope and her friends, Aaren and Brock, might be the only ones who can escape through the Bomb’s Breath and make the dangerous trek over the snow-covered mountain to get help.

For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and risk-taking that usually gets Hope into trouble might just save them all.

Middle grade fiction tends to be mostly hit or meh with me. Either it’s blowing my mind with awesomeness or I could kind of take it or leave it. Sadly, Sky Jumpers did not jump its way into my heart. While I don’t have anything against it and definitely don’t think it’s a bad book, I’m neutral to it.

Sky Jumpers reminds me a lot of Z for Zachariah. Now, if you haven’t read the latter, let me enlighten you. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, in which a young girl is living in what may be the one safe valley from all the pollution. Things aren’t quite that bad in Sky Jumpers, but there’s Bomb’s Breath, a thicker, deadly gas all around. One breath of it and you’re dead. There’s a similar sense of isolation in Sky Jumpers, only there are whole towns, not the one teenage girl alone.

However, much like that teenage girl was beset by a deranged man who wanted her supplies, Hope’s town is attacked by nefarious bandits. Due to the adults underestimating children, Hope and her friends are the town’s only hope and have to face off against an enemy way above their skill level. This basic story works really well as an introduction to post-apocalyptic fiction for young readers, capturing some of the bleakness without getting into anything overly terrible or dark.

The actual sky jumping is pretty cool. Basically, Hope and her friends figured out that you can walk through Bomb’s Breath as long as you don’t breathe. Also, sense it’s denser, you can jump off a cliff, go through a cloud of it, and land safely in breathable air down below. The kids are daring in a way that the adults aren’t, and it does sound like the kind of stupidly dangerous thing children might do.

Hope and her friends are fun characters, and, as ever, it’s a delight to read about the focus on friendship and family in middle grade fiction. I particularly like Brock’s character, and how much they learned about him as the novel went along. By the way, I totally ship Brock/Hope, even if middle grade ships make me feel a liiiitle bit creepy.

Where the book lost me was in the inventions. Hope’s town forces everyone to be an inventor and, if you suck at it, like Hope does, everyone will judge you and be really mean. Apparently they know enough about the past to want inventions because they know things were better, but not enough to have great ideas of what to make and how to go about it. Also, it just seems like a horrible foundation for a society to force everyone into a scientific path when everyone isn’t wired that way. The fact that Hope was the only one who was so bad at inventing was totally not believable to me. Plus, I don’t really feel like it advanced the larger narrative; it felt more like a way to make Hope the outcast and underdog, and then give a message about everyone having different strengths. That’s a good message, but the execution here is clunky.

Sky Jumpers is an excellent choice for younger readers curious about post-apocalyptic fiction, but worried that YA ones might be too dark and scary. It’s definitely much less upsetting than Z for Zachariah, which I remember seeing on reading lists in elementary school, and which creeped me out as an adult. It might be more hit or miss with older readers.

Favorite Quote:

“You know, we should tell him that when you challenge someone and they win, it’s only polite to say how upset you are about it. Possibly even yell. Stomp your feet. Something.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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