BOOK REVIEW: SKY JUMPERS, by Peggy Eddelman (Random House/debut novel)

51h-7VOiXVL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_Take-aways: If you liked THE HUNGER GAMES, you’ll love SKY JUMPERS with a similar voice and feel, strong female lead and male supporting characters, but without all the violence and death.
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SKY JUMPERS is a middle-grade debut novel by Peggy Eddelman. Why read a middle-grade novel? For me, it’s probably the same reason some adults read YA and Urban Fantasy marketed to adult teens and 20-somethings. It’s good fiction, but with middle-grade, you lose the angst, cursing and sexuality of it; there’s a kind of pure innocence.

For example, in one scene of SKY JUMPERS, our protagonist, Hope, is fighting a bandit. Now, when she had a chance to do her bandit in, to actually kill him, she stops and says, “I don’t want you to die.” If I were a twelve-year-old child trying to save my city and family in a post-apocalyptic world, I might have done something similar to what Hope did. In a YA or adult novel, she’d have “killed him dead” and not thought a thing about it.

In the fight scenes, with the guard against the bandits, we know people are wounded and killed, on both sides, but it’s not written in a graphic, violent sort of way. In fact, I would say this novel has realistic violence, necessary for furthering the plot, but it’s not the type of violence that a tender-hearted pre-teen or teen couldn’t handle. That’s the innocence of it. No sex, no cursing, respect for elders (even in light of some minor disobedience, but done in a lesson-teaching sort of way), and no inappropriate violence. I think this is a book any parent can feel safe letting their child read.

What made me love this novel is that I was Hope, so I could relate to it. No, I didn’t grow up in a post-apocalyptic world after so-called ‘green bombs’ destroyed a lot of things in a way no one had expected (clever idea, slightly weak on suspending my disbelief where the science of the oxygen and metal changes are concerned, but entertaining enough I didn’t care). I didn’t have to worry about bandits who wanted precious medicine that our city could make or who struggled to survive or have enough food to eat—all things Hope had to struggle with in her daily life.

But I could relate to feeling out of place, like Hope did, like everyone in her town or her class was good at something, and she wasn’t. She can’t seem to keep her clothes from being disheveled, can’t get places on time, always seems to be in a bit of trouble at school without ever meaning to do anything wrong.

I remember being a kid and wondering why I never had pretty handwriting like the other girls, or why my notebook paper never tore out of the notebook neatly and my stuff was always sloppy, or how I couldn’t write with an ink pen without getting ink all over the side of my hand, or how I couldn’t eat without spilling food on my shirt. I was so painfully aware of these differences I felt made me stand out, when I know now others around me had felt the same. I never realized my strengths might lie in a different direction.

And this is Hope’s journey too. Hope struggles to fit in, to find her place in a city of inventors, when she is not very good at inventing. She feels like she’s embarrassed her father, who is a community leader, embarrassed herself, and more importantly, she’s let everyone down in her town, because she doesn’t contribute anything.

So when bandits attack, they focus on the older kids and adults. Twelve-year-old Hope and her friends, experienced with sneaking around the city and the school in their adventures, are virtually ignored by them. This makes her prime choice to try to make it to the neighboring city to seek help from their guard without being noticed.

Hope and her friends make the trek through the dangerous terrain, through the deadly Bomb’s Breath, in search of help, and the rest of the story is about that adventure. Through her trials during this adventure, Hope learns her strengths and worth to herself, her family and her city.

If I had one complaint about the story, I’d say it summed things up a little too quickly toward the end, and it gave (spoon fed) the reader the ‘moral’ that Hope was supposed to learn. However, I’m an adult used to reading suspense novels, where I like to ‘figure things out’, and I have to temper my opinion with the understanding that this book is intended for 8-14 year olds, give or take.

The best way for me to sum this up is this: If you liked The Hunger Games Trilogy, this is a similar style and feel, but it’s younger and not so dark. For adults wanting a light read, I think it’s worth getting this book, but for kids, especially middle-grade kids, this is a must-read book. I would have loved this book as one of my very favorites when I was in third to sixth grade, and it would have been high on my list even in junior high school.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was given an unedited advanced reading copy of this title by the publisher, with no expectation of a review, unless I chose to write one. I was not compensated for my review in any other way, and it is my unbiased, personal opinion.

SKY JUMPERS is available for pre-sale, pre-ordered on Amazon.com right now, both for your Kindle and in paperback and hardback copies. If you pre-ordered today, you will have it shipped to you or automatically delivered on September 24, 2013, the official day of its release.

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