“Innocence encourages trust. And trust breeds obedience.”
“Watch the Sky” had me hooked from the first chapter. Kirsten’s writing instigated a tickling in my brain that I couldn’t scratch. It kept me up at night with so many wonderings. Initially I expected the book to be sci-fi, even though we never left Earth or encountered any aliens. It was very much like watching a suspenseful episode of “X-Files” where you get to play Scully and Mulder. You might even find yourself thinking, “I want to believe.”
Jory’s family is different from other families. His step-dad, Caleb, encourages them to be ever vigilant in the search for signs. His mom gets debilitating migraines and fears leaving the house. Even his sister, Kit, just appeared in their pumpkin patch one day. Only his baby brother, Ansel, seems to have any resemblance to normalcy.
But different isn’t always bad. Jory trusts his family whole-heartedly and would do anything for them. So when Caleb suddenly announces to the family that he’s seen the sign, they start making preparations without hesitation. Preparations that include stockpiling supplies, canning food, and most importantly, digging.
Digging becomes Jory’s life. Each day, from midnight to 5 a.m., Jory and his family trek to the nearby canyon to dig. Jory isn’t sure what or why they’re digging, but he trusts his family and wants to follow orders like a good son. But this new lifestyle couldn’t have come at a worse time. Jory now has friends at school who want to spend time with him and a teacher who has taken an interest in him.
Suddenly Jory finds himself questioning his family instead of the outside world, which is what he’s always been taught to do. Here’s where the book turns from sci-fi story to a cautionary tale. When Kit gets taken from the family, Jory starts thinking that his trust may have been misplaced. He needs to decide if he’ll continue blindly following his family’s orders, or if he’ll follow his own instincts.
“Watch the Sky” will likely make you ask a ton of questions, though you may never get the answers, or at least not the answers you were looking for. It certainly won’t be wrapped neatly with a pretty bow. At first, I was disappointed about not having a big reveal. But after I thought about it, I realized that the purpose of the story wasn’t to find out what the threat was, it was to find out who you are as a person. To get you thinking and to put yourself in Jory’s shoes. So even though we start the book wondering about the world and the universe around us, the lens eventually turns inward, forcing us to look inside ourselves.
I really grew attached to the characters in this book, which made the open ending even more frustrating. Kirsten thoroughly developed her characters, particularly Kit, Jory’s sister. Kit appeared one day in Jory’s family’s pumpkin patch. After telling Jory her name, she goes without speaking for three years. She seems to have a mystical quality about her, though we never find out for sure. Readers never learn why Kit refuses to talk or where she came from. I think I could read an entire book focused solely on her.
Caleb, with his conspiracy theories, becomes a character you either love or hate. Jory’s family trusts him implicitly. This immediately made me suspicious, but I couldn’t help but wonder what his true motivations were. Was he privy to inside information or was he just a tin-foil wearing nut?
After reading this book for the first time, I think it would be interested to read it a second time, knowing what I do about the end. It would probably be a whole different book, with a much different purpose. I look forward to reading more of Kirsten Hubbard’s work, especially if she comes out with a sequel to “Watch the Sky”!
Title: “Watch the Sky”
Author: Kirsten Hubbard
Publish Date: April 7, 2015 (Request this title via NetGalley)
Text-to-Text Connection: “City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau
My recommended age range: 4th and up