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Under a Painted Sky

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  9,240 ratings  ·  1,661 reviews
Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life o ...more
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published March 17th 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
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Natasha Philippi Advance reader copies. Book reviewers/bloggers are sent early copies in exchange for their reviews.
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
J. I don't think West knew Sammy was a girl. I think Pedro was the only one that had an idea of the girls true identities. When Cay became ill, I think h…moreI don't think West knew Sammy was a girl. I think Pedro was the only one that had an idea of the girls true identities. When Cay became ill, I think he started to realize too. West only knew towards the end.

I think he was mean towards her because, it was how he was raised. His dad had toxic-masculinity and repeatedly abused West because he liked to draw...which was too feminine (stupid, I know). Sammy is very feminine, and even disguised as a boy Andy, stated that she was still too pretty. I think West didn't like her for it. Sammy didn't represent a "true" man.

I also think that West might of had a sexuality crisis too. He probably had a crush on Sammy, but he believed she was a boy. Back in the 1850s not many people were openly gay. So he probably panicked a bit at his "unnatural" feelings towards her.

Anyway, that is my guess! (less)
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Emily May
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I admit that there are some books I only read to satisfy my curiosity after I see all the hype. You know the kind - they win a bunch of awards, get a kirkus starred review, feature in Goodreads "best books of the month"... and yet, you read the description and you're just not that excited for it. But you're curious enough to pick it up anyway and not expect much. Well, I'm so glad I'm one of those curious readers.

Honestly, this book was really good. It's one of those rare stories that manages to
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Perhaps it’s due to my childhood computer class time, spent entirely on the game Oregon Trail, that I seem to enjoy this genre. People uprooting their entire family for a ‘better life’ risking starvation, cholera, dehydration, typhoid, snake bites, bandits and Indians attacking. It’s an adventure, that’s for sure! 😁🤗 I loved that this story followed the two girls pretending to be boys. There were some laugh out loud moments, some oh snap moments, some heartbreak and definitely some friendships f ...more
Heather Petty
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, friends, ya, ebook
I am the worst at reviews, so I'll try to keep it simple:

I do not like westerns.
I do not like horses or cowboys or dusty trails.
I am super picky about historical fiction and would NEVER choose one set in the "Wild West."

And I love this book, which is a historical fiction, full of the horses, cowboys, and dusty trails of the Wild West.

I loved pretty much everything about it, but my absolute favorite was the relationship between Annamae and Samantha. They come together through tragic accident
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

----C.S. Lewis

Stacey Lee, a Chinese-American author, has woven a heart-touching and thoroughly engrossing tale of friendship and shifting backdrop through the infamous Oregon Trail, in her debut book, Under a Painted Sky .


Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a
Rachel  (APCB Reviews)
Initial Thoughts: A book filled with beautiful writing, amazing characters, a lovely plot, an epic setting, and great themes. I loved this one so much.

Read the full review @ A Perfection Called Books

"I never heard anyone call the sky painted before, but it's the perfect word. Clouds outlined in gold streak across the firmament, casting uneven shadows over the landscape."

This beautiful cover that first caught my eye perfectly accompanies the beauty within. This book managed to surpass my insanely
Fadwa (Word Wonders)
CW: Slavery, racismn death, graphic description of dead bodies, sickness (cholera), violence.

Original review posted on my blog : Word Wonders

Before reading this book, I hadn’t read a historical fiction in the LONGEST time and I really missed it so you can imagine how excited I was to finally pick it up. Plus, I had never read a book about the California Gold rush so that doubled my excitement. And this book truly exceeded all the expectations I had for it which were already high considering a f
Nasty Lady MJ
Jan 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
To see review log with gifs click here.

If you haven’t ever played Oregon Trail this review probably isn’t going to resonate as much as if you had. I’ll be referencing several things that happened in the game-such as catching dysentery, over hunting, and my favorite themed parties (oh yeah, you could either use the programmed in names like Charity, Obadiah, and Francis or come up with your own party-I was partial to using boy bands).

For this book our party leader is Samantha, better known as Samm
Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner)
I was so excited when I first heard about this book. OREGON TRAIL. UM THAT GAME WAS MY JAM BACK IN THE 90’s (plus I really loved the Dear America book set on it). That game, man. I always died from dysentery and what a bitch it was to shoot like 2000 pounds of bison and only be able to carry a 1000 back to the wagon. AND WHEN IT SPOILED?!? UHHHH. And anyone else name the people in your wagon after people you didn’t like so you were like WELP SORRY YOU DIED FROM CHOLERA AIN’T THAT A BITCH.

So I re
3.5 stars.

Does killing a man who tired to rape me count as murder? For me, it probably does. The law in Missouri in this year of our Lord 1849 does not sympathize with a Chinaman's daughter.

This book is about a Chinese girl named Samantha, who lives with her father in Missouri, 1849. But after losing her father in a tragic accident, she ends up breaking the law to defend herself. Annamae, a slave who is at the scene of Sam's crime, helps her and they escape together. They both head towards the O
Rashika (is tired)
Actual Rating 4.5
***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato

Under a Painted Sky was one of my most anticipated novels of the year so diving into it, I was more than ready to love it. But did I love it? DID I? Nope. I lurved it. THIS IS A BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN, GORGEOUS NOVEL THAT I WANT TO SHOVE AT EVERYONE. And I am using caps to say this so you know I am serious! If you’re not sure about reading the book, just look at the pretty cover and give in to temptation. ITS CALLING OUT TO Y
Shannon (kitchandpages)
Actual rating 4.5

What a great read! I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone! A YA western at its finest, featuring diverse female protagonists and an Oregon Trail adventure.

Samantha and Annamae are two girls on the run for different reasons. Samantha is a Chinese American who is searching for her destiny and possibility of a new life. Annamae is a African American girl who lives in the South and is enslaved -- she decides to runaway and forge a new path of freedom. These two girls fa
Sep 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First thing you need to know about this book: there are cowboys. Second thing you need to know: it's really well researched. And third thing: it's SO FUN.

I honestly don't think I've ever read a YA book like this one. There just aren't that many YA westerns out there. But this book embodies everything great about the genre and time period, with survivalist situations, outlaws, and dangerous animals. Also, did I mention the cowboys? Like, how often are there cowboys in YA? So cool!

Another great th
Jen Brooks
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
How refreshing to read a book that is largely about . . . kindness. About friendship. About people who are hurting and lost in this world, yet looking out for each other. The main characters—Samantha, Annamae, Peety, Cay, and West—find themselves on the Oregon Trail together amongst homesteaders and gold-rushers. The tension in the story comes from the secrets they keep from each other (for desperate and believable reasons) and from the various (and many) obstacles they face on the trail. The hi ...more
Renée Ahdieh
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book. I want to jump in a DeLorean and go back in time so I can be Sammy's best friend (and admire West from a safe distance).

Stacey Lee is a beautiful writer with a unique voice and a superb eye for detail. The way in which she develops the relationships in the novel is nuanced and perfect.

I can't wait to see what she pens next.

Book Riot Community
When is the last time you read a feminist western in YA about friendship?

Lee’s debut novel is an utterly refreshing and exciting adventure story set during the Oregon Trail years. It begins when Samantha, a Chinese girl in St. Joseph, Missouri, experiences a tragic loss in her life and realizes that her dreams of moving back to New York City and pursing a career in music might never come to be.

It’s through chance she meets Annamae, a runaway slave, and together, the girls decide they’re going to
Willow Hadley
Mar 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-15-of-2015
This is stunning. If it weren't for work and sleep, I would have read this all in one sitting. 'Under a Painted Sky' is such beautiful story. Each character was phenomenal, and I absolutely adore the friendship between Andy and Sammy. Plus, there was so much more action than I anticipated! This is definitely a book that grabs you straight from the first page. I recommend this to everyone! ...more
CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

I have just been on the most incredible adventure. And now I am not too sure of what to do with myself.

Under a Painted Sky combines elements I am not usually familiar with (nor fond of) - Westerns and historical fiction - with themes I love to read about - sisterhood, friendship, loss, and the unexpected things we find. The result? An unforgettable, and poignant story about the bravery and determination of two young girls as they journey across the Oregon Trail. Lee captures the dusty road of th
Jen (The Starry-Eyed Revue)
Very similar to Walk on Earth a Stranger, except I think I may have liked this one better. And that has a lot to do with the pacing. Or the fact that I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator made it seem more lively. Not sure which. Maybe both.

But I'm not going to compare the two books. I do want to point out the thing that made me want to read/listen to this book in the first place, and that is Lauren's reference to The Kiss of Destruction. I don't seek out love triangles or romance drama
I.W. Gregorio
May 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeously written buddy book - Thelma & Louise in the Wild West. Such amazing historical detail, humor, and emotion. Brava!
Becca Fowler (PivotBookTotes)

*Review to come
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Life just tastes sweeter after you’ve licked death.

Two young ladies, one a fifteen-year-old Chinese girl whose father died recently in a fire, and one an African girl who is running from the chains of slavery, team up and disguise themselves as boys on an epic journey through the wild west where they meet a dashing band of cowboys and encounter numerous dangers.

Probably my favorite thing about Under a Painted Sky was the group of slightly wacky main characters and their hilarious conversatio
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Assorted thoughts:
1. Wow, Sam is awesome! She's such a likable narrator.
2. Three cheers for diversity!! African-American, Latino, and Asian characters. Awesome!
3. The writing is beautiful. So is the cover
4. The romance is alright, I guess. The story would've been fine without it, but it's not unenjoyable with it.
5. I really like the emphasis on friendships. I appreciate that the friendship between Sam and Annamae is the main focus of the book, not the romance between Sam and West.
6. Overall a v
Namera [The Literary Invertebrate]
I first read this book when it came out four years ago and I remembered enjoying it, so I randomly decided to do a reread. It isn’t perfect – especially in the realm of the romance – but it was good fun , hence the generous rating.

Fifteen-year-old Samantha Young (yes, she’s a lot younger than I’m used to in YA) lives in Missouri with her widowed father. They own a general store and they’re eking out a living, even if the attitudes of their neighbours leave a lot to be desired. Chinese people
nick (the infinite limits of love)

The book publishing industry is already winning at 2015 with all the diverse books that are being released. Stacey Lee's Under a Painted Sky not only shines because of the diversity that it explores, but it's also a stunningly written book that captivated me from the very start.

Under a Painted Sky was more than anything, a story about friendship and about two girls finding strength in each other. It was a beautiful and touching story, and I couldn't help but fall in love with these two character
Erin Bowman
Jun 25, 2014 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction and/or american history, and those looking for a diverse cast
My official comments:
Deftly researched, Under a Painted Sky propels readers into the lawless west and life on the Oregon Trail. With a diverse cast, timeless themes, and an addictive plot, this is the YA western I’ve been waiting for.

My unofficial comments:
OMG a YA western YAYYYYYY!!!!!
Jan 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Young adult novel about the Oregon trail and friendship with strong female leads. It's packed with action, adventure and some humour. It is also slow at times and some parts are better than others. Good debut though it didn't WOW me like it has others. I think this novel would suit someone younger than me. LOL. 3.5 stars
Jodi Meadows
Official comments:
UNDER A PAINTED SKY left me speechless. Hopeful. Smiling. Stacey Lee’s debut is a powerful tale of loss, adventure, and sisterhood. Completely captivating.

Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, pub-penguin
4.5 stars. This book was wonderful!

A few things I loved:
A historical, American West, Oregon Trail setting with wagon trains, immigrants and outlaws
A Chinese narrator who blends her cultural traditions into the American setting
A runaway slave determined to find her brother
The love of music
A strong female friendship that is at the core of this book.
Crossdressing girls who change their names to Sam and Andy in order to survive
Three young cowboys who team up with the two newly created boys
Wild ho
This was such a fun and interesting read, and a very cool and unique perspective. YES, THERE WERE NON-WHITE/BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICAN HISTORY. SURPRISE. God, I'm happy this book is a thing. It kept making me want to hop on my computer to play Oregon Trail, except that I didn't want to put it down. ...more
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved, loved, loved this book. Seriously, this is the sort of historical I keep hoping to find! More westerns, please.
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Stacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perk ...more

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Individually, Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows are three authors who write fantasy and paranormal novels for young adults. Together,...
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