Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: Flowers in the Sky by Lynn Joseph

Flowers in the Sky
Fifteen-year-old Nina Perez is faced with a future she never expected. She must leave her Garden of Eden, her lush home in the Dominican Republic, when she's sent by her mother to seek out a better life with her brother in New York. As Nina searches for some glimpse of familiarity amid the jarring world of Washington Heights, she must uncover her own strength. She learns to uncover roots within foreign soil and finds a way to grow, just like the orchids that blossom on her fire escape. And when she is confronted by ugly secrets about her brother's business, she comes to understand the realities of life in this new place. But then she meets him-that green-eyed boy- who she can't erase from her thoughts, the one who just might help her learn to see beauty in spite of tragedy.

From the acclaimed author of The Color of My Words comes a powerful story about a young girl who must make her way in a new world and find her place within it.
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Kat's Review
This is a beautiful book, from the cover to the story of a girl ripped from her home and forced to try and lay down new roots in a place that is foreign in both language and lifestyle.  Nina, the 15 year old protagonist, is sent from  her small village in the Dominican Republic by her mother to live in New York with her older brother Darrio, who she hasn't seen in ten years.  In her village, Nina grows a garden of flowers, caring for them the way Darrio taught her before he left, and selling the flowers to make some extra money for the family.  She doesn't share her mother's dream of a bigger house or to marry a rich baseball player, she only wants to be left to care for her garden and enjoy the life her small village has to offer. 
I will admit, when I started reading I found the language a bit simple and na├»ve, but to be honest, a young girl from a small village with little access to mainstream media, and no experience with life in a big city, would have a simpler view of the world.  Not inferior, or less intelligent, but different.  Her experiences were limited and her interactions with strangers were sheltered by her very protective mother.  It becomes apparent throughout the book that Nina's outlook on things is sheltered, just as it becomes obvious that her mother's impressions of what life is like in New York are coloured by the stories she hears when people return to the village on vacation.  In many ways Nina's character reads younger than a typical North American 15 year old.  She wasn't allowed to wear make-up, or date, or even spend time with boys back home.  She wasn't watching music videos or talking on cellphones or using the internet.  It takes some getting used to as a reader, but I think it was authentic in many ways. 

The author is able to really make the reader feel Nina's confusion and dismay when she first ventures out in New York City with her brother.  The noise, the people, the buildings, everything is an assault on the senses.  Just as confusing is the tiny apartment her brother inhabits, mostly devoid of furniture.  Nina realizes that life in New York isn't the idealistic picture painted by those who return to the Dominican on vacation, but rather a more complicated and cut-throat way of life, one that her brother was thrown into alone at the age of eighteen.   The way Nina adjusts to this new way of life, her brother's secrets, and being a teenager at an American high school form much of the story.

Rating: A Good Read

Although rated YA, it would appeal to younger teens or even some middle grade readers maybe more than to older teens looking for a more sophisticated protagonist or a more typical teen romance.  I think it has great crossover appeal and would be a good book to use in a classroom setting when discussing immigration, culture shock, traditions, or any number of issues.  A really beautiful read.

Purchase:    AMAZON

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful book, filled with culture and traditions of the Dominican Republic. Sometimes simple is best in storytelling. :)


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