**Please be advised, as part of the theme of this particular novel, that this review may contain references to grief, loss of a family member, terminal illness and animal cruelty. This review is not meant to be rude, but is intended to be honest – this may come across as quite blunt to some, and for that I apologise but cannot change my opinion to please those who think opposite to me.**
Contemporary, young adult fiction
Sometimes you have to leave everything behind to find yourself.Synopsis provided by Aussie YA Bloggers.
Sky is travelling to Alaska to meet her father for the first time.
Far away from her friends back in Australia, she navigates the new relationship with her father and meets Jaxon, a local boy struggling with his own problems. In a cold, vast and beautiful place, they are isolated except for the wild animals who live there.
As Sky gets to know her father, she finally feels she has a chance of having a real family again. But her father has a secret that threatens everything Sky holds dear. Will she have to choose between family and her love of animals?
This is a heart-warming story in the coldest of places.
Please feel free to read my review of Sky (book one in the Animal Allies series) by Ondine Sherman before this one.
Before I start, I want to point out that this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review and in most cases, I absolutely love the books that I choose to review. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Snow. I think overall, this book was a classic “I didn’t enjoy it, but I know other people who might” scenario, even despite what I thought was not very well-done with the book overall. And with that side note out of the way, onto the (rant) review.
This book was another quick read for me, mostly because I feel that I have an obligation to finish books that I choose to read – this was one such book. And the reason I decided to go for it, to join this blog tour, was mostly because I saw some form of potential in the first book, Sky. Unfortunately, Snow did not meet any of the expectations that I wanted. It didn’t take the direction, or make the changes, that was needed.
The book follows on from Sky almost to the day, but allows you to pick it up without having to read the first book. Unfortunately, it literally picks up from where Sky left off and our main character, Sky Lawson, is just as selfish, bratty and stubborn as ever. I don’t think I said that so explicitly in my first review, but I think I’m warranted it here, because it hasn’t changed. Even though she’s turned sixteen in this book, she hasn’t grown up at all, and it really bloody showed.
I don’t mean to be blunt but I did not enjoy this book at all. And though I see how it can appeal to a certain audience, there were just too many factors that weighed negatively on the story for me to find it enjoyable. This is not to say that the themes in this book are not important; I think that they absolutely are. But Sky does not handle anything about life well; it’s almost like she was raised in some sort of sheltered room and given rose-coloured glasses from the first time she opened her eyes. (Which is bad to say, considering i know exactly what it feels like to watch a mother dying too.)
Snow follows the first time Sky meets her father, who lives in Alaska. Yes, the most un-Australian centre of nature ever – plus there’s snow and other animals that aren’t kangaroos and koalas, so I was so excited about this book travelling international, because if Sherman can do one thing well, it’s describe landscape in a way that makes you appreciate it on the page. The Northern Lights are something that I would love to see one day; a natural phenomenon which was described in a way where I actually felt like going online, booking flights and just waiting out until I got to see them.
I’m scraping the bottom of a barrel for other pros about this book, because honestly, I found a lot of the whole story very problematic. Especially for the book’s intended audience, as Sky continues to behave recklessly because she seems to not be able to handle that people have lives outside her own veganism and opinions. She thinks that she is the centre of this universe, and god forbid that others have differing opinions and lifestyles to her! She acts like a child under ten, when she’s almost an adult and I get it, she’s lost her mum, has just reunited with her long-lost father, she’s been through a lot, and she’s growing up (not that the theme of growing up/coming of age is really explored much, I don’t think) but there’s literally only so much someone can throw into a book (based on popular/current tropes) without me not wanting to throw said book across the room.
And back to this bad role model thing—in what universe would a sixteen-year-old not die if she went hitchhiking in an unknown country to find a flaky-af aunt who, for some reason, takes this child’s passport, her only form of official identification in this country, and goes to an unknown women-only festival in the middle of nowhere WITHOUT taking the care to have someway to stay in contact with said child? This was just one of many of the problems that I had with this book, and Melody’s ‘tragic upbringing’ and fear of raising kids badly literally does not excuse her from being a shitty guardian for this trip?
This book also has no real storyline, not like Sky, which I think posed a problem with me trying to figure out where this book fit in the whole scheme of things (considering there is a third book coming out too). This book had no goal. It wasn’t some sort of activist-challenge like in the first book, which I think was a shame. It revolved around the theme of hunting animals, but never actually showed illegal hunting or anything; just the very legal, very contained, form of hunting which is literally regulated so much. It’s with animals which are not endangered, and despite Sky’s only logical argument about times changing and humans not having to hunt like they did way back when and whatever, she’s still thinking this world revolves around her and what
Another positive; this book is such a quick read. I read it in about five hours over two days; I can’t say that I read every page word for word, not honestly, because a lot of whatever Sky was doing in this book was one of three things;
One – overreacting about something that she can’t control (the poor thing, other people eat meat and do something you remotely think is intolerable and you run off into a life-threatening situation)
Two – doing something rash and/or stupid (you talk so much about your life at home, but seem to never mention the boyfriend to anyone – I would have paid to see the reaction of your father to that piece of news???), or,
Three – complaining. (I mean, come on, you’re almost an adult, you don’t need to whine like a two-year-old because someone is explaining that their job involves killing animals, especially when they explain things rationally?)
I’ve talked about really not like the MC of this book and it literally is the backbone of my dislike for the book, unfortunately. I think the MC just makes exploring these themes of animal cruelty so much worse; it’s already a subject where a lot of people hear it and then promptly zone out, so I was really looking forward to this book (and series in general) being able to explore that in a bit more of a relatable sense. I think it did in Sky, but I found that Snow just showcased a 265-page tantrum that didn’t give me much thought about the bad side about hunting. I mean, her father (the hunter, in case you hadn’t guessed) explains about how his job is to take out rich clients to hunt not endangered animals, in incredibly controlled conditions, with the main principle being ‘a quick kill is a humane kill‘ (which I get people don’t adhere to all the time, I get it!) and then teach said clients how to use the entire animal so that nothing is wasted? I would have loved to see a storyline where Sky stumbles onto a rich client of her father’s who is hunting illegally, and then works to take him down; she still would have been a brat during it, but at least there would be some insight to the important side to this animal cruelty-hunting sub-theme, in my opinion.
Again, the adults in this book were the only believable characters and I’m honestly surprised that in Sky’s weird point of view that the adults didn’t seem crueller. In fact, they were angels. I think this was a bit of a plot hole, just in the writing – Sherman can obviously write opinions on adults much easier than children. Oliver, being described with skin that looks photoshopped by a grown woman was just weird? Or maybe I’m just so hyped up that I’m looking too far into it but there were two distinct ‘ages’ in this book – adults and not adults. I’m pretty sure Jaxon was an adult (I honestly can’t even recall if they mentioned his age specifically), but he was written like an equal to Oliver, who is the same age as Sky, so there was no age difference to me and they were all just kids doing stupid things. (Don’t even point out that Jaxon can drive, because in America, kids can get their full licence at sixteen so Jaxon could have been the exact same age as Sky and Oliver and I wouldn’t know the difference.)
Which brings me to the next part; forced tropes.
Love triangles. Wow oh wow. I love myself some good romance. A good slow-burn, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers – literally, I crave the cliches sometimes. But Snow takes a lot of this a bit far. The romance isn’t at the core of the storyline (lack thereof), and so I felt that a lot of any of the romantic notions in the whole book were incredibly forced, awkward or just painful attempts at trying to tack it on at the end to appease an audience who might want some romance in their books. Well, it failed. Miserably. Jaxon all of a sudden crushing on a random girl he’d only known for two weeks (or something; what was the timeline of this whole story again?) is just weird. Weird creepy if he ends up being older than her (seriously, was his age mentioned?), or just plain weird in general because two weeks?! And then to top this off, Sky is her idiotic self who doesn’t think things through and just doesn’t mention her boyfriend at all (I mention this before but apparently it warrants a bit of an encore appearance.)
Staying on Jaxon for a second, I felt that his entire backstory in this book also held no importance, really, and was just an excuse to have him living in the same house as Sky and her father. Which is sad, because his living situation is actually terrible – but really just showed me that even in a small town like Anchorage, people are cruel and content leaving a child alone with an alcoholic father who literally ruins everything. His presence, for me, overall just pushed that romance agenda forward but if he wasn’t there, Sky still would have done the same stupid things and gotten herself into the same situations anyway. She’s just that crazy.
Other popular tropes and themes that were barely touched on but would have made the book deeper, I felt were tacked on. This included Melody being bisexual; I don’t think that it was mentioned in the first book (or I’ve disremembered), but all of sudden it’s mentioned in this one and I felt like it was this books way of taping a rainbow flag to itself and shouting ‘I have this too.’ I also think touching only briefly on Melody’s backstory gives her no free passes for the way she’s acted the entirety of the two books. With Jaxon’s story, we saw a bit about parental neglect and alcohol abuse but after one main event involving him and his dad, it kind of got brushed under the rug a bit. (In all honesty, Jaxon was a lily-pad character for me when I felt that he could have had more of an impact in the long-run.)
I had more to say, but this is getting to be longer than my review of Sky and if you’re still here, I have to commend you for sticking with my rant review for this long. I contemplated actually posting this full review at all, instead of a shortened and more condensed version which hopefully spoke the same volumes. In the end, I decided to stick with my original review because what is this book community without a way to fully express your thoughts about what you liked and what you did not. Unfortunately, in this case, there was much more that I didn’t like than things that I did but this just didn’t live up to what I was expecting of it. I went in with a few too many hopes that it would surpass its predecessor.
Instead, I was left crushed. So disappointed. Such an important topic, left stranded under fragments of selfish tantrums and irresponsible guardians, idiotic trips and unbelievable turns of events. Honestly, I am mostly upset that I didn’t like this book more. And I probably shouldn’t be, I shouldn’t care that I didn’t like one book out of the hundreds that I’ve read in my life, but I do.
Have you read Snow?
What a rant. I apologise. I’m sorry for the length of this review. I’m sorry if you thought that this book was one of the most incredible books of the year. But I am not sorry for my opinions, I am not sorry for not enjoying this book and I am not sorry that I found this book problematic. This book is a classic “it’s not for me but it may be for you” situation and I hope you find something in it that is as beautiful as the landscapes or the cover. I do have to add to proceed with caution; I felt the first book was a great transition book from middle grade to young adult, in the story and the writing, but Snow (for me) is borderline Literary Fiction and not intended for younger audiences (17/18+ in my opinion)
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This book was provided by the publisher and Aussie YA Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions on this book are my own and are meant no offence to any persons involved or the themes that are discussed.