Speak meets Gossip Girl in this searing contemporary Young Adult novel where the most courageous three words a teenage girl will ever have to say are, "I need help."But fifteen-year-old Chris Miller is far from courageous. She does nothing when her best friend is sent to juvenile detention for a crime Chris knows she didn't commit. She stays quiet as her mother steamrolls her into a scholarship program at St. Catherine's Prep for her sophomore year. She acquiesces when her new friends introduce 'drinkstagram' at their sleepovers. Chris understands that quiet insecurity isn't the most valiant approach to life, but it gets her through the day unscathed. Until she's sexually assaulted.In the aftermath, Chris's fragile coping mechanisms crumble, alongside her grades and her tenuous happiness. When Chris is forced to volunteer at an afterschool program to maintain her scholarship, she finds herself catapulted back to the very neighborhood she has been struggling to escape. When her family is thrust into the crosshairs of a gang war, she discovers just how much damage her silence can cause. Ultimately, she must decide if she will continue to stay quiet as others call the shots and remain a victim, or if she can forge the strength to stand up, declare the truth and call herself a survivor. Trigger Warning: This story contains content that may be sensitive for some readers including sexual assault and drug/alcohol consumption
Caroline Schley is a YA author and high school science teacher. Originally from New York City, she currently lives in Madrid and will happily travel long distances for white-sand beaches, high-quality chocolate, and alpine hiking trails. You can find out about her current writing projects and stay in touch at www.carolineschley.com.
Please note: This is a review from the author! So probably not fair and unbiased. But read on if you would like some context on the backstory of the novel.
If you can believe it, when I started working on the early drafts of ‘The Weight of the Sky’, it was a love story. In the summer of 2019, when I was learning some hard lessons about how to kill your darlings, deep questions about the #metoo movement gripped the United States.
It was an uncomfortable time in the country, with debate about sexual misconduct coloring everything from Supreme Court nominations to dinner table discussions.
At the forefront of this critical juncture sat a courageous and resolute group of women who were seeking genuine change in the tone of the American conversation around sexual assault. Even now, it’s difficult for me to accurately describe the admiration I had for the bravery of these women, who voluntarily put the most vulnerable and difficult moments of their lives in the crossfire of a national debate.
I drew tremendous inspiration from them, as well as from my years of experience as a high school teacher in institutions ranging from high-needs public schools to expensive independent campuses, as I built the cast of characters in this novel.
I wanted a story that respected the difficult moment in history during which it was written and spoke to the contemporary young adult experience with the #metoo movement. I can only hope I’ve succeeded in any small way with these lofty goals.
This was my first novel, and its creation was one of the most unique and beautiful experiences of my life. I hope you enjoy it! If you would like to know more about this and other writing projects, please stay in touch at www.carolineschley.com
Chris has always had the brains as her single mother had drilled her into becoming a doctor as she ended up stopping her dream and becoming a single mother and now works as a nurse. Chris comes from a poorer neighborhood but has the brains to become something better and her friends know it which we see one of her best neighborhood friends being arrested for drugs. The book then jumps to Chris starting a new school - an elite private school called St Catherines as she has won a scholarship. When she arrives, she meets an amazing group of friends and soon is thrust into the world of popularity as her new friends are stunning, rich, and Instagram famous. As the book travels along, Chris starts to experience parties and romance while rubbing with the arms of the elite and soon she captures the attention of Caldwell. However the book takes a turn as at a party, she ends up being raped and when she tries to tell someone who she thought was her friend, she feels ostracised as people start acting as she asked for it. During the second half of the book, we read as Chris's life starts to change as she becomes withdrawn, her grades start to drop and life doesn't seem worth living. Can a new friend Perry hold the spark that Chris needs as she learns to be happy again by helping at a new volunteer center and finally speaking up about the truth? Find out in this edgy YA read "The Weight of the Sky" by Caroline Schley.
First of all, thanks to NetGalley for approving my request and sending me an eARC in exchange for a honest review. You have to know English isn’t my first language, so feel free to correct me if I make some mistakes while writing this review.
Bridgeport, Connecticut. Chris lives in the poorest and most criminal part of town, she's fourteen and has just gotten a scholarship to attend her sophomore year at St. Catherine's, a prestigious private school across town. It has always been just her and her mother, a nurse who made it through great sacrifices and who always repeats to Chris how important it is to take advantage of all the opportunities she is given - but she never says a word about her father and she frowns upon Chris's friendship with Lesley.
Chris is basically a good girl, but her mom doesn't know that she's already kissed a boy and had a little experience and that Lesley is great at stealing her mother's alcohol and knows the right people to buy weed from - plus, Chris isn't even sure that the dream of being a doctor is really hers alone.
St. Catherine's is a whole other world and the social and economic differences are all too obvious, even if her new friends Sterling, Bree and Ainsley never make a big deal out of it. But it's also an extremely competitive school and the pressure from her mother upon Chris to excel in every field doesn't make things easier - Chris would also like to spend time normally with her friends between sleepovers, snacks at the diner frequented by the popular kids and crash the seniors' parties. A senior just like the terribly charming guy that Chris has a crush on, despite all the warnings about him and his reputation from her friends.
And it's precisely at one of these parties that one of the worst things that can happen to a girl happens, the consequences of which are tragic: of the three people to whom Chris tries to say it immediately, only one of them believes her and is on her side, while the her grades plummet and her entire life seems to fall apart - pain, anger, shame, fear are now the only constants of her life and nightmares. Only by accepting the support of those who have never abandoned her and remembering the love and teachings given to her by her putative father, Chris will be able to get back on the right path to learn how to heal.
From the plot, the book looks more like The Hate U Give than it actually is. We are told that Chris's is not a nice neighborhood and that Jose - the husband of her mother's best friend and the only father figure Chris has ever known - has been in jail for five years because he found himself in the middle of a gang's business and didn't want to report for fear of repercussions, but apart some news later and a couple of meetings with people from hers old life, Chris's existence runs far from those tracks.
The first half of the book is mostly focused on the economic difference between Chris and her friends and the constant shame of not being or having enough, despite her mother always telling her that a rich person is no better than her just because they have more money. Celeste is a tough mother, who certainly tries her best as a single mother, but who often appears unlikeable due to the expectations she places on her daughter and because she herself pretends that everything is fine and doesn't talk about the problems even when clearly there's something wrong going on.
The book begins to engage more emotionally from the Halloween party onwards - and Chris's dubious consent when she's with Caldwell, the guy she has a crush on and everyone had warned her about, isn't even the worst part of the story. The author did an exceptional job of describing and dealing with all the consequences in Chris's life following the sexual assault: anger, shame, fear, apathy, inability to focus, keeping at distance even people who believe her and want to help her - everything is described so realistically that it hurts.
I deeply loved the friendship between Chris and Petey, already in the air even before that night - Petey is clearly a guy who, from personal experience, knows full well that money doesn't automatically make you a good person and is determined to help Chris in any way he can, even asking his girlfriend in college for help on how to do it. The effort and attention that Petey puts into getting Chris out of her shell is something that warmed my heart and that I would like to see more often (in real life and fiction) and I also loved how Chris didn't need any romantic relationship - also because it was really the last thing she needed - to be able to save herself.
I think I "felt" this book in an even more intense way than those books where the protagonists are seventeen - although seventeen is the most critical age for me in my memories and in my life. But I remember what it was like to be fourteen / fifteen - that feeling of having the world at your feet, of being invincible, of finally reaching the age to start experimenting with alcohol and getting infatuated with older kids and hoping to be noticed by them. That feeling of knowing exactly what you are doing, even if people sometimes warn you about situations you're getting yourself into.
Certainly Caldwell was terrible and superficial, certainly he took advantage of a girl's infatuation for his own pleasure and he certainly wasn't really listening to what Chris meant / wanted to tell him - I hated him, but never as much as I have hated the other male character and Caldwell's gesture in the end gives me hope that he understood the gravity of the situation and what the limit is, making him a better person in the future.
The title has its meaning - this is because the sky of Chris's life will never be as blue and cloudless as it was until that night, but that doesn't mean that dawn can't rise again. It's absolutely a good book, with heavy themes dealt with in the right way - it didn't involve me as much in the first part as it did in the second and it didn't make me burn with rage like other books did, but it's certainly deserving of all your attention. It's also impossible not to love Chris and her journey.
Chris’s lot in life thus far has given her few opportunities. She doesn’t know who her father is, and her mother refuses to speak of him. With an overbearing mother such as Chris has, Chris is not sure whose life she is living – her own, or her mother’s. Her future opens up when she is given a scholarship to St. Catherine’s Prep, although it is clear she does not fit in. There is no way she could’ve afforded to attend the school without the scholarship, let alone wear clothing and jewelry of the same standard as the other students.
Chris falls into a group of friends, who seem not to mind much about her lack of knowledge about clothing and makeup, although Chris does not speak much about her own upbringing, for fear that they would make fun of her and stop talking to her. When Chris catches the eye of Caldwell, a handsome senior, she barely listens to the warnings her friends give her about him, that he is a player and that it is very unlikely he actually cares about her.
Chris is a very brave character. Having to change schools, to such a drastically different environment, is one thing, but trying to fit in is another. Her mother wants her to become a doctor, but Chris isn’t so sure she wants to. Nevertheless, and despite the school being wary about signing a sophomore up for an AP class, Chris’s mother ensures her daughter is in the hardest, most challenging, and potentially good-looking on a university application, classes St Catherine’s Prep has to offer. It is clear Chris does not particularly want to take these classes, but there is nothing she could say to her mother to get her to change her mind. Chris takes on an exponentially large amount of studying, alongside trying to keep up with her new friends and the endless amount of drinking games, parties to crash, and names to remember. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, and Chris does not see this as a good thing – too many girls have already been disgraced from the school social ladder for rumours, and she does not want to join them.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about Chris’s new friends. Coming from such different lifestyles, I was arguably more wary about them than Chris was, but they, for the most part, seemed quite nice. Chris seems to spend more time with Sterling than the others, and Chris grows to be comfortable in Sterling’s house, comfortable enough to help herself to the food stacked in the pantry that would otherwise never get eaten – the calorie content is far too high for Sterling to even consider eating it. I liked Ainsley, more than the other girls, because she is so kind and sticks by Chris no matter what. She seemed like more of a normal friend, the kind of friend who you can mess around with, trying to throw food into each other’s mouths, rather than the kind of friend that you need to pretend around, or pick your words carefully.
There are clearly some scenes in this book that would be triggering to some readers. Chris’s life is turned upside down when she finds that the word ‘no’ is sometimes completely ignored. I couldn’t have felt more sorry for Chris, and I wished that she would tell someone and get the help that she needed. However, the support system that she so desperately needs is not there for her, and she doesn’t feel like she deserves it. There are several different issues brought up in this book, such as what happens to Chris, Sterling’s issues with food, and the feeling that these girls have to hide their problems so they can get through the day safely, and without causing trouble.
There is one character in this book, other than Chris, that I absolutely adored, and that was Petey. Petey is a senior, and he has no romantic intentions towards Chris in the slightest, having a girlfriend that he is devoted to. Instead, he becomes her entire support system, there for her when she needs him to be, and ready to help out with anything she might want or need. The relationship that forms between them is one of close siblings, and he is exactly what Chris needs, and what she should have from her mother.
This book is an incredibly emotional read, and you definitely need to be prepared for what is to come when you go into it, for it is harrowing, for lack of a better term. However, I feel like the issues and scenes were approached considerately and portrayed with care. This book is not about ruined lives, but about people who have the courage to stand up to others, and to help each other. Not all friendships are the sort that you should keep, and not all boys are worth pursuing. But when you find those friends that are there for you through everything, who are willing to do anything to help you, they are worth holding onto.
Despite having some issues while reading this book, purely because of the horrors that Chris faces, and at such a young age, I was gripped and couldn’t put this book down. It is the kind of novel wherein you are so desperate to know what happens next, so desperate for everything to end up alright, that you simply keep reading it until you are done.
*I recieved a copy of this book from Xpresso Book Tours for review consideration.
I already knew that Caroline Schley was a gifted teacher but it was a very pleasant surprise to discover that she was also an excellent writer. I found the whole novel unputdownable. Most of the characters were well-developed, although there were, perhaps rather too many of them. Some were introduced in considerable detail and then sort of faded out of the plot. I think this is an important book about an important issue affecting many more young people than we imagine.
Caroline Schley certainly knows how to evoke a number of emotions in this novel. Filled with volatile subjects such as sexual assault, classicism, and alcohol abuse to name a few, this book has left a lasting impression on me. I can only assume as a teacher herself, she has been exposed to some of the teenage behavior she writes about.
Christopher “Chris” Miller is basically thrown into a new world of wealth and entitlement by receiving a scholarship to St. Catherine’s Prep. As you can guess, she’s riddled with extreme behaviors and activities that pose a detriment to her naivety and innocence. Namely, an arrogant and irresponsible bad boy senior and his so-called nasty friends. In addition, when Chris tries to explain her incident to her new girlfriends, not all support her and she falls into a downward spiral of despair and bad grades.
I could have wrung Chris’s neck a couple of times as she ignored her friends’ warnings about Caldwell, but at fifteen years old you think you are invincible especially when a guy pays attention to you. My heart broke for her when she tried to tell her friends what happened to her and only a couple came through for her. As she finally finds the support she needs and as a volunteer for Petey’s dad’s Bridgeport House to support low-income families, she starts to find her strength again. And boy, does she let some people have it. Way to go, Chris!!
I definitely have my favorite supporting characters. Petey is a true gentleman and a wonderful friend and more which I can’t divulge. I would have liked to have heard more about his girlfriend, Becca, though. Ainsley is another good friend who proved her support in many ways. Chris’s mom, Celeste, is a bit intense and pushy, but she truly has her reasons as Chris finds out more about her absent father. As for Sterling, we find out she has many issues of her own she needs to deal with first before she can be there for Chris. I want to add that Mr. Whitman, the science teacher, and Ms. Amsling, the principal, are very encouraging toward Chris and are great adult role models.
This is one of the better prep schools, rich vs. poor students, tropes that I have read recently which is saying a lot since there are so many out there right now. Though it is YA fiction, the subject matter may have trigger warnings. With that being said, I believe teens and adults should read this very emotional and serious novel.
Thank you to Ms. Schley for giving me the opportunity to read this book with no expectation of a positive review.
Written by the author during the #metoo movement this is a power and relevant work of fiction.
This novel primarily highlights and reminds us how vulnerable and niave we are when we're young adults.....
From the poorer part of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Chris Miller is fifteen years old and has won a scholarship to a prestigious private school for her sophomore year. The story follows her transitional journey physically and emotionally.
This YA novel contains content that may be sensitive for some readers including sexual assault and drug/alcohol consumption yet it could be essential in teaching young adults why and how to avoid ending up in situations similar to Chris Miller the protagonist.
This book reminded me how innocent and easily influenced we are at that age and how we can so easily end up in situations of degredation.
Reading this as a 44 year old highlighted how much wiser I am now than I was then at Chris's age, I winced at some of her decisions regarding boys but equally I knew that my 15 year old self would have made similar decisions .....I still remember how it felt to have huge crushes on boys and the effect they had on me even just to look at them.
Decisions Chris takes leads her to desperate situations and she is taken advantage of in the worst possible way, the fallout of this has such a huge impact on her personal and scolarly life.
The synopsis of the book lead me to think it would be a much bleaker novel than it was, yes there are some devastating, life changing events that take place for Chris, but it also included the importance and power of friendships and strong relationships and the joy, stability and security they can bring to your life. It also reminded me how we can take negative experiences in our lives and use them to make us stronger and wiser.
This book totally gripped me, I'd highly recommend
Kudos to @authorcarolineschley For creating an incredibly gripping story that total captured my attention from page one
Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of The Weight of the Sky in exchange for an honest review.
I have such mixed feelings with this book. Honestly, the first about half felt like reading about rich kids talking about rich kid problems despite the fact that the MC herself isn't wealthy and I really wasn't into it but once the book's main trauma happens, everything is so well handled that I can't justify giving it a bad rating. Schley really manages to make their protagonist feel so real in her assault and response to it that it's impossible not to root for her to come out okay after everything. I'm not an SA survivor so I'm not the best person to speak to this book's accuracy, but this felt like a really respectful way of opening up discussions about sexual assault.
This is a really well written YA novel that deals with some very serious and difficult teen issues ... especially sexual assault. It's an easy read with an interesting plot, good (and not so good) characters, sharp dialogue and a pleasant message. Made me wonder what's going to happen next. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.
Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book!
Please read the trigger warnings before reading this book.
Christopher is a high school student with the opportunity to enroll in an elite school. When she starts her school year, academics become the least of her problem - until they too become a problem as a result of a traumatic event.
Caroline Schley did a wonderful job writing this story which had several surprises imbedded.
This was a cover to cover book for me! I really liked the plot! ( while my black heart wished it was a little darker...) I really enjoyed the characters. I didn’t see that twist coming at all! This is my first time reading this author and I gotta I’m very impressed!
Chris is a gifted student who earns a scholarship to a prestigious private school. Despite being from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, she thrives at St. Catherines, viewing the excess and superficiality of her peers with humor and even compassion.
After all, Chris has enough self esteem to hold her own among her ambitious and privileged new friends. She’s accomplished a lot in her fifteen years under the guidance of her loving, if intense, mother. Then Chris is assaulted at a senior party and her life derails. The crippling shame she experiences is visceral and a powerful turning point in the book.
Caroline Schley is a gifted writer who introduces the novel's subplots with finesse. Her prose is smart and effortless and she tackles hard subjects with grace and authenticity. I was looking forward to this debut and expected it to be good. But it’s better than good. I was floored several times by the novel's depth and had to collect myself. It’s an important book that deserves to be widely read.
Thank you Caroline Schley and Xpresso Tours for an eARC of The Weight of the Sky in exchange for an honest review. This review was originally posted on my blog, June Reads Books.
Chris feels like her life isn't hers to live out, but she is pressured to pursue a life her mom felt cheated out of. Even when Chris tries to find some sense of identity by trying to find out about her nonexistent dad, her mom shuts down the topic every time. Her mom refuses to let their income status pave the way for Chris's life, so she constantly drills into her daughter's head a drive to work hard and look for opportunities. When one such opportunity presents itself, Chris is plucked from her public school characterized by drugs and gangs and enrolled in an elite private school on a full scholarship. While Chris feels like the only reason she's there is to help her on her way to her mom's dream of her being a doctor, she does quickly find herself welcomed into a group of girls, going to sleepovers, parties, talking about boys, etc. She struggles with feeling like an outsider because of their stark differences in socioeconomic classes, but the girls don't seem to see this as a problem. Even though Chris feels like she has to lie to her mom frequently, she finally feels included and happy.
Until the unthinkable happens.
Suddenly Chris feels like she doesn't have anyone. Her days are filled with swirling emotions from trauma, the people she called her friends don't believe her, and she quickly finds herself failing her classes do to a lack of desire.
Schley writes a raw story about sexual assault and trauma. There is no way you can read Chris's story without feeling your heart pulling for her in a puddle of empathy. As you find yourself immersed in Schley's writing, you will feel a part of the story, mourning with Chris, chiding every lie, cheering for her as she rebuilds confidence, feeling her emotional rollercoaster as she learns about who she is.
These pages pack emotion, teen-angst, and harsh moments into a quick-paced, easy read.
Chris has been accepted to a prestigious high school. She hopes this will help ease some tensions with her over-bearing mother, who hasn't given her much space since she's never approved of her best friend. But her mother might be the least of Chris' problems as she's thrust into a world of wealth, arrogance, and guys she wasn't ready to deal with.
This is a YA read, but it should be noted that this one does handle some tough themes (sexual assault, drug abuse) and does have several graphic scenes
This was one of those reads, which does hold in the pages until the very end. Chris is a character, who's easy to understand. She makes mistakes, tries her best to solve her problems, but often feels ignored. Her naivety causes many issues and fits for the age group. The people around her do act their age, and while not all are likable, most actions are understandable or, at least, believable. It is, however, a teenage, high school drama and does come across as such.
I did appreciate how this author approached the topic of sexual abuse and handled Chris, in general. Her silence and lack of courage will resonate with some readers as she deals with things, she's not ready to handle and can't find help...or ask for it. Of course, she's thrown into one heavy scene after the other, but it does keep the story gripping. It's hard not to feel for her and root for her as one issue rolls into the next. It's a grabbing read the entire way through.
I received a complimentary copy and was surprised how engaging the read was.
The Weight of the Sky by Caroline Schley is a book that I wished I had read as a new mother just starting out, having no parental road map of my own to follow. What parents don't know within the silences of their children. If they knew, would things be different and better?
I could not put this book down. Caroline Schley enveloped me with her young characters, who lived each day trying to deal with life's challenges while, at the same time, trying to fit in with their peers. They learn a lot as the story unfolds.
With her heart and insight clearly evident, Caroline Schley has written a must read story. I highly recommend it to young people who will benefit from it as I have.
It would be great for a Mother/Daughter book discussion.
I really liked The Weight of the Sky. This YA novel deals with sexual assault, drugs and alcohol. I liked Chris and the way she told her story. So important for young woman to be aware and confident about themselves and their bodies. It's not easy navigating through your teenage years but we can learn from our mistakes and move on with our lives. I enjoyed this Authors writing and would read more of her work.
I give The Weight of the Sky 4 stars for its good read. I would recommend this book to YA/Fiction fans.
This debut novel by Caroline is outstanding. I was gripped from the beginning and found it hard to put down! This novel features well developed characters and issues that sadly affect a-lot of young people. (Please check trigger warnings.) A very emotional and at times harrowing read but also shows courage of the characters and a possibly happy ending! Im hoping there will be a book two to see how the characters develop. This is one of my favourite reads this year!
Caroline has set a fire that needs to be burnt, waves that need to be observed within this book. It was a hard read due to the topics but it was done so perfectly. I cannot praise this book enough. Please read the TW but also please read it if you can, it’s a book that needed to be written, that needed to be heard. Caroline Schley has fast become one of the best writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Thank you for writing this, thank you for sharing it with me.
I read a ton of YA and often get bored, but I couldn't put this book down. It's so beautifully written, and I fell in love with the characters and the realness of the story. The dialogue is SO GOOD!! This could 1000% be a tv series. You will be rooting for Chris, laughing, and crying with her.