The latest round in my quest to read the Texas Bluebonnet Award nominees was another chapter book, Sky Jumpers. From the cover, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the book, which happens to be the author’s debut novel and apparently the first in a series. While the book was a good read, and enjoyable, I have to say that I didn’t really find anything particularly original or amazing about the book that made it stand out from the other nominees. However, if you don’t read it, you are missing out on a good book.
Summary: Hope lives White Rock, a little town in a crater formed by the noxious green bombs of World War III. The war, and its bombs, changed many things about the world, from the way that elements interact to the creation of the Bomb’s Breath, a dense cloud with air that is impossible to breath. Because the war decimated everything, the town must now invent what it needs to survive. Each year, an inventions contest determines who has created the best invention to improve their way of life. The only problem is that Hope is, well, hopeless at inventing. She’s good at adventure and taking risks, neither of which her town supports. Just when Hope feels like there is nothing more she can do for her town, disaster strikes. Hope may be the only person who is able to save the town from certain destruction, but is she brave enough to take on this risk?
What I Liked: I liked the overall moral of this story. Overall, it teaches you that you don’t have to be good at the same things as everyone else to be a useful member of a team. The story is engaging and fast-paced – just when Hope and her friends overcome one obstacle, something else arises. Hope is someone identifiable and yet heroic. It is easy for the reader to sympathize with her struggles, as we’ve all had things that we aren’t good at, and moments when we feel like we’ve let down the team. The plot is adventurous and yet believable, and forces the reader to think about actions and their consequences. The alternate setting also raises subtle questions about how our decisions today will impact our future.
What I Didn’t Like: Overall, while the book was enjoyable, I didn’t find the plot to be particularly original. Having tasks assigned to characters to better the community seemed reminiscent of The Giver. While the plot was clearly its own story, in many parts it seemed very intuitive as to what would happen next based on the type of story. I also didn’t like that while Hope started out as her own character, strong and independent, it seemed for much of the story that she was hopeless without the help of her male counterparts. She couldn’t save the town on her own – she had to have two men travel with her to assist her. Ultimately, though, Hope is the real reason for the story’s conclusion, and in the final chapters is able to stand alone as the powerful character I hoped she would be. Also, while I enjoyed the alternate setting, I didn’t feel like the effects of World War III, or the reasons leading up to the war, were clearly explained enough to provide context for the story. While the effects of the green bombs are critical to the town and its survival, I would have like more history interwoven in the story to explain the current situation.
Overall Feeling: This is an enjoyable, adventurous story. It raises compelling questions, although sometimes reading as an overdone stereotype of the adventure novel. It is easy to follow and moves quickly, and readers will enjoy the constant action and obstacles. For a book in a series, the title stands alone as a story, and allows you to feel some resolution to the plot, while still wondering about the future. Most importantly, the book encourages you to be yourself to be the best help to your community, which is a powerful message. I recommend this book for anyone who wants a fast-paced, adventurous, sometimes futuristic, and overall fun story.