I’ve been reading a lot of YA books about werewolves and angels recently (not together I hasten to add, although what an interesting combination that would be and as far as I know, has not yet been tried). As an honorary wolf girl AND Angel girl, this is fine but to be quite honest, I needed a break from these two themes and I found it in Finding Sky, a debut book by British author Joss Stirling.
I have to admit that at first I was nervous about picking this book up. Why I hear you ask. Well, the cover is beautiful so it wasn’t that. And the premise sounded fantastic so it wasn’t that either. It was for the simple reason that the author is British and I don’t have a great track record with British authors. I realise this makes me sound like a complete traitor and I don’t mean to be. There are of course exceptions to the rule - I really enjoyed By Midnight by Mia James and obviously classic novels such as Tom’s Midnight Garden, The Secret Garden and pretty much anything by Roald Dahl. Most British teenagers are fed on a diet of American TV shows like Gossip Girl, Glee and The Vampire Diaries. For me, it was more like My So Called Life, Dawson’s Creek and Roswell High. As a teenager, I was obsessed with moving to America and having an authentic “high school” experience. This is one of the things that intrigued me about the book because Finding Sky is about a teenage girl called Sky Bright (yes, she’s heard all the teasing remarks before) who moves from London, England to Colorado in the United States with her adoptive parents due to a job offer they couldn’t refuse. Of course it’s about much more than a British girl experiencing culture shock in another country; it’s about dealing with the past, finding out who you really are and accepting your fate.
To please the hopeless romantic in me, there was a love story with a touch of the supernatural (well sort of). Sky crosses paths with Zed Benedict, a boy with a bad attitude. Initially, they don’t seem to like each other but sparks fly after one particularly eventful incident that changes the way Zed looks at Sky. Zed confesses to being a Savant, someone with extra sensory abilities and claims that Sky is his soulfinder. The idea behind soulfinders is romantic to say the least. Although I can see why someone who doesn’t understand the concept might find it stifling. It’s a bit like being on a first date and asking how many kids you think you’ll have together, just slightly off putting for your date. I thought Sky’s reaction to this news was authentic and I loved how Zed’s character developed when Sky came into his life. Zed explains that he is a different person when he is left to his own devices, almost like he depends on Sky, his soul finder to make him whole, no to be a better man. His character shifts and he becomes a bad boy turned good which is just the kind of guy I like ;)
Sky definitely goes on a journey in this book as she unlocks the secrets to her past and learns to deal with the consequences of doing so. I would have liked to have seen her toughen up a bit and I think she does come out of her shell as the book progresses.
The idea behind Savants was interesting and not something that I’ve read about before in a YA paranormal book. They were nicely represented by the Benedict family and each family member had a different extra sensory gift. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the idea of telepathy and how it used in the book. How awesome would it be to speak to someone using only your thoughts, not only speak to them but hear their replies?! I loved this concept in Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and I loved it here too.
As in any good book, there has to be conflict and there were many conflicts going on in this book. I initially thought that the main conflict was going to be about Sky coming to terms with her past but there were other conflicts such as the fact that not all Savants are good, power has a tendency to corrupt ;) I can absolutely see how these gifts could be used for both good and evil purposes and I thought this story line added something extra to the book.
I really enjoyed this story but if I had one criticism it is that a couple of things said by American characters sounded very British. For example, Sky’s friend Tina uses the word “mates” which is not really something I think an American would say. Also, towards the end Zed says “good grief” in a sentence directed towards Sky and to me; this seems out of character and not something that would pass his lips. Of course, you could argue it away and say that Sky’s American friends have adopted Sky’s British way of speaking but it still sounded a little false to me. The good thing is, I was happy to overlook these minor nuances as I loved the story so much.
The story was wrapped up nicely but I’m truly hoping it isn’t a standalone book because I think there is so much Joss could do with it. Firstly, we don’t know a lot about the history behind the Savants. How did they get the name? When did it all begin? How do you become a Savant? Also, I think the fact that Zed has six brothers who haven’t found their soulfinders yet leaves A LOT of room for further stories in the series, perhaps with each brother taking the lead as the protagonist.
I really enjoyed this book, perhaps even more than I expected and it definitely lingers. I’ve been thinking about it for days since I read it. Joss Stirling is definitely a name I will be looking out for in future and based on what I’ve read so far, I’d buy her next book without needing to read the synopsis, ESPECIALLY if it was a sequel to Finding Sky.
Thank you to Oxford University Press for sending me a copy to review.
Just in case you’re wondering, I never did get to experience an American high school but I did become an Au Pair for a year after completing my A Levels. It was certainly a unique experience and I don’t regret it. America felt like home to me and maybe this is why I love American books because I was there at an impressionable age (well that’s what my dad says anyway).
Joss has her own website which you can visit here although there's not a lot there at the moment. Finding Sky is available to buy now.