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The Weight of Our Sky

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A music-loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

But there are things that Melati can't protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.

With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.


**Content warnings: Racism, graphic violence, on-page death, OCD and anxiety triggers.**

277 pages, Hardcover

First published February 5, 2019

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About the author

Hanna Alkaf

13 books931 followers
I write unapologetically Malaysian YA and MG.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,039 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
January 13, 2023
It's clear from the outset that The Weight of Our Sky is a labor of great pain, and a labor of tremendous love. I went into this book knowing very little about the race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur, but Hanna Alkaf has delivered a very informed yet intimately personal account of one of the most tragic incidents that are folded into the history of Malaysia.

The Weight of Our Sky opens with the weight of the riots’ reality falling suddenly upon Melati, a Muslim Malay teen, when a Chinese execution mob irrupts into the theater where Melati was hanging out with her best friend, Saf. Melati is saved by a Chinese lady and forced to leave Saf behind. The rest of the story sees Melati desperately trying to find her mother, while death ambles through the empty streets of Kuala Lumpur.

This was an intense reading experience. Alkaf sketches a sickening, somber portrayal of humanity’s violence against itself, the unutterably horrifying reality that a person could be driven mad by hate, how a stranger—someone you’ve never met, much less wronged—could look at you with hatred etched into every line of their face, with hatred pounding through them like blood, and wish you harm. I read the whole time with a knot in my stomach, that didn’t immediately unwind when I turned the last page.

But for me the book shines best in the effort and attention to the subject of mental illness, using Melati’s experience as a fulcrum from which to examine the taboo surrounding mental health, especially within Muslim communities. Melati’s mind has been a realm of horrors since her father’s death, when she became convinced that a djinn has stolen into her consciousness and delighted in dragging into her mind festering images of her mother dying again and again. Melati can only mollify this djinn by counting and tapping in threes. Melati’s struggles are heartbreaking, and Alkaf’s honest, compassionate, and vibrant telling allows for complexness in the reality of what living with mental illness is like. This kind of honesty is really touching, and builds into something profoundly resonant.

With that said, I wish this book were longer, or that the story had a slower, more organic build. Instead, the novel’s tight pacing feels rushed, and the plot unfolds in fits and starts. I think a little more breathing room or build-up might have led to a smoother conclusion. A bit more ink in the pen would have also helped drawing out some of the characters, instead of making them special only to the extent they serve a purpose. The novel, for example, could have provided a more harmonious and detailed counterpoint to Melati’s journey rather than painting Vincent’s and Frankie’s storylines in very broad strokes, rendering them almost trivial.

These quibbles, however, dissipate in the warm tide of an immensely affecting story and an important, veracious voice.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
February 12, 2019
I know the signs; this is the Djinn, unfolding himself, stretching out, pricking me gently with his clawed fingers. See what I can do? he whispers, unfurling yet another death scene in all its technicolor glory.

4½ stars. This has to be one of the most original YA books I've read in a long time. It just checked all the boxes for me.

» It explores an area of history I've never seen in fiction.
The Weight of Our Sky is set during the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur. After a contentious election, Chinese and Malays took to the streets, rioting, burning down houses, and brutally murdering each other.

Alkaf does not sugarcoat it. This book is dark and gruesome, containing graphic violence, but it is never gratuitous. On the contrary, the author writes with such compassion for her characters, both Chinese and Malay, ultimately urging us to never forget; to never let this become a cold fact in a history book that we do not appreciate in all its horror and intensity.

» It uses a really unique style/approach.
While set during the riots, this is also a book about OCD and anxiety. Melati must constantly perform small rituals of tapping and counting to appease the djinn inside her. I found this so different and believable and sad. In 1969 there was even more stigma against mental illness than there is today, and it seemed natural that Melati would believe herself to be possessed by a djinn, given her family's religious beliefs and lack of alternative explanation.

I think the author does a great job of capturing Melati's obsessive circles of thought. In fact, I felt my own anxiety spiking alongside hers as she fears and doubts everything. It is, of course, all exacerbated by the terrifying circumstances Melati finds herself in-- separated from her mother in the middle of so much violence and destruction.

» Great mix of action and introspection.
Between the violence, chases and battles for survival, and Melati's chaotic mindset, the book rarely stands still. But in the few moments when it does, we are treated to Malaysian folktales and passionate discussions about music. This latter offers Melati a brief respite from the djinn, and us a brief respite from the dark and upsetting events of the novel.

Gorgeous and evocative descriptions of the setting also offer a balance to the horror:
The air is thick with a pungent mix of odors: the delectable aroma wafting from the famous shredded duck buns on the one side; the mysterious smells that emanate from the jars and boxes that line the shelves of the Chinese medicine hall; the heady, overwhelming cologne that trails behind the college boys swaggering down the sidewalk in their ill-fitting drainpipe trousers, combs stuck in their back pockets; and everywhere, a faint undercurrent of stale sweat and cigarette smoke.

I feel compelled to mention that this is in NO WAY a "romance cures mental illness" book, which was my biggest fear after reading the description and being introduced to Vince. This is not that kind of book at all.

There's so much good in The Weight of Our Sky. It's a fascinating character portrait of a girl with a mental illness in 1960s Malaysia; it's a reminder of a piece of the past we must not forget; and it's about the small acts of kindness that emerge out of the darkest of times.

CW: Graphic violence; death; OCD; anxiety; racism.

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Author 13 books931 followers
July 11, 2019
This seems like a good place to put this, so if you're considering reading my book -- I'M THE AUTHOR! HI! -- I'd like to warn you ahead of time that the contents include: Racism, graphic violence, on-page death, OCD and anxiety triggers. If you're not in the right frame of mind to take that on, please consider setting it aside and waiting until you're better able to take these on.

Thank you for wanting to read THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY; it's a very personal book to me in a lot of ways, and it means a lot to share that with you <3
Profile Image for may ➹.
480 reviews1,942 followers
June 11, 2020
I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction. It bores me, it’s written dryly, and I just don’t connect as much to the characters.

But The Weight of Our Sky is different. It’s captivating, in a devastatingly emotional way, and its stunning writing pulls you in. You feel for the characters and people in this book, so much that it hurts. Somehow in less than 300 pages, this book breaks your heart and mends it back together, over and over and over again.

The Weight of Our Sky tells the story of Melati, a Muslim Malay girl living in Malaysia during the time of the 1969 race riots in Malaysia, an ugly battle between the Malays and the Chinese. Melati lives with OCD and anxiety, but she is led to believe that it’s instead a djinn that lives inside her head, feeding her images of her loved ones’ deaths that she believes she can only prevent by counting in threes.

These race riots… are brutal. (Content warnings at the bottom of my review!) I’d never read anything about them before, and that just made it even more shocking. It’s difficult to get through, because it hits you hard and you can’t believe that something so vicious could happen. And Alkaf doesn’t shy away from depicting these cruel acts against humanity and is able to show both the horrors people faced and the hope people still had.

Living through this is made worse for by Melati because of her mental illnesses. She feels consumed by her fear and worry, and it dictates so much of how she lives her life. The portrayal of her anxiety and OCD is just exceptionally well-done, especially in a time and place where mental illness was heavily stigmatized.

When there is so much broken about the world we currently live in, one cracked person is easy enough to excuse or ignore.

The Weight of Our Sky is immersive and engaging. Before I read this book, I was slumping, and especially struggling to read ebooks. This book, though, I absolutely devoured, reading so much faster than I usually do because it was just so engrossing. It packs so much into a book of less than 300 pages, without it feeling dry or slow, managing to keep you captured the entire time.

One of the things that keeps you captivated is Melati herself. Her character is written so well, and her struggle to manage her anxiety without giving into the Djinn is heartbreaking to read. You can feel her pain and her worry so much, and it’s enough to make you want to sob. But the way Mel is able to grow throughout the book and become stronger for the pain and troubles she goes through to find her mother is absolutely beautiful. Melati’s resilience is powerful and inspiring, and her love for her mother truly shines.

Speaking of her mother—the relationships in this book were so strong. Melati refuses to stop searching for her mother, even when her own safety and health is at risk, and it seems hopeless at times. There’s Melati’s best friend Safiyah, who was in scenes I teared up over. There’s the Chinese boy Melati meets who helps her stay alive, Vincent, sweet and kind. There’s a little Malaysian girl Melati meets and takes care of, May.

All of these relationships and more show how not only in this terrible time is there war and cruelty—there are also people helping people, Malay, Indian, Chinese. Race is what divided some, but race doesn’t keep apart everyone else from helping each other in their time of need.

Alkaf’s gorgeous prose tops all of this off. Her nuanced portrayal of these horrific events is already impressive, but she also manages to write everything beautifully. How she can tell a story grim and dark but weave in threads of hope and light is beyond me.

As a Southeast Asian, this book means the world to me. Southeast Asian rep is difficult to find in popular books, even in just “somewhat” popular books. And while I’m Thai, not Malaysian, there were so many cultural things in this book that I could relate to, even as someone who lives in the US and has visited Thailand only 6 times before.

When I read of the streets described in the book, I pictured roads in Thailand. When I read of the markets and vendors in the book, I pictured the stands and street markets in Thailand. I mean, even the inclusion of motorcycles made me think of Thailand. It’s these little details that may not be noticeable to non-Asians that mean a lot to Asian readers.

Just as it is obvious that I love Thailand and cherish my Thai culture, I see the same in Melati as well. Despite the horrors going on, it is clear that she loves her country still and is proud to be Malaysian. And that pride, that love—it is so very meaningful to see.

“It means where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rules of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We make our own sky, and we can hold it up—together.”

This story is not only of heartbreak, nor is it a story only of hope. It is a story of both, and how you can be broken over and over again, but you will still survive and keep surviving, even if you have a few scars.

I fully recommend this breathtaking historical debut. It’s incredibly difficult to get through without wanting to curl into a ball and wish nothing like this ever happened, but it is completely worth it. It’s an important, relevant story, and I have no doubt many others will fall in love with Melati, her journey, and Alkaf’s writing just as I did.

:: rep :: all-Asian cast, Malaysian Muslim MC with anxiety and OCD, Malay and Chinese side characters

:: content warnings :: death of a loved one, death in general, graphic violence (like mob violence) missing loved one, anxiety and OCD triggers, racism, description of blood, depictions of grief

Thank you to the author for providing me a review copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review! This did not affect my opinion in any way.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,693 followers
October 5, 2020
My full review can be found on my blog, The Quiet Pond.

My goodness, I needed this. I needed this book, I needed the Malaysian representation, and I am overjoyed that I have read it.

- The Weight of Our Sky is one brilliant, emotional, and heavy-hearted debut, and all of you absolutely need to read this.
- Follows Melati, a Malay teen with OCD plagued by a djinn and visions of her mother's graphic deaths, who searches for her mother amidst the racial riots between Chinese and Malay people in Malaysia.
- This book is so unapologetically Malaysian and I loved it. I loved the small nuances and nods to Malaysian identity and culture - aunties being aunties, landmarks, Malaysian English, and PUNS!!!! (WE MALAYSIANS LOVE PUNS!!!!!)
- But goodness, this book is heavy. It explores trauma, cultural difference, prejudices, and what strength and solidarity looks like in a time when difference could mean life or death.

I am honoured that I was able to read the eARC of this as part of Hanna's book tour, so my full review will appear on my blog on February 7th, 2019. You don't want to miss my full review of this.

Trigger/content warning:


Initial Thoughts:
I don't often share thoughts about a book before reading it, but here, I'll make an exception.

I can't wait to read this book. It's one of my most anticipated reads ever.

My parents survived the race riots in 1969, and May 13th has left a deep and traumatic emotional scar on my family, their friends, and the older generation of Malaysia. I don't know much about it beyond brief personal recounts and the limited information on the internet - so reading this book, learning a bit about my family's history, learning about what happened, will mean so much to me.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,794 followers
July 25, 2019
book #5 completed! for the reading rush, under the challenge of: "read a book with purple on the cover"


things i liked
- the representation of OCD was so present. right from the first page, the reader witnesses how terrifying and vivid mel's visions are and how they make her fall into this whirlwind of compulsions
- it depicts the horrors that took place in malaysia during 1969 when chinese and malay people went to war. and my goodness, you can really see the scene play out and feel the fear and desperation that melati felt
- it proved to be a story of overcoming personal prejudices as well as combating mental health. it was a story of heartbreak and horror but also one of acceptance and hope
- the author included a list of trigger warnings and i thought that was SO COOL

things that didn't really work for me
- i wouldn't say i disliked //anything// in particular, but i found certain things hindered my reading experience
- from a purely literary standpoint, i found it really repetitive. yes it showed OCD and the cycle of compulsions extremely well but at times i felt like i was just rereading the same scenes over and over without any additional information
- i didn't connect well with the writing (totally my fault) and i kinda had to force myself to continue reading it
- idk if it was just me, but i felt religion was kinda featured in a one-dimensional, primitive lens :/
- the ending felt unfinished to me, there was a HUGE build up and i then everything got pretty much resolved within 10 pages

it's definitely a book that didn't connect well with me but i do think a lot of readers would appreciate this honest and complex story that is personal to others in so many ways

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Zen Cho.
Author 54 books2,359 followers
February 23, 2019
Moving, sincere and fast-paced, with a wealth of local detail. I thought the heavy subject matter was handled very deftly and hope this will only be the first of many more "unapologetically Malaysian" books!
Profile Image for Vicky Again.
595 reviews817 followers
January 23, 2021
I was so awed by this book.

So many things work in it. From Hanna's exploration of the racial tensions of the time to Melati’s struggles to reach her mother while needing to satisfy the djinn inside her and her anxieties to the nearly tangible tension of this story.

It’s definitely a doozy–in only a short period of time, Hanna goes through so much and this book is a serious gut-punch (so be prepared and pack some tissues). But all of the emotions it made me feel were so worth it, and I am totally in love with Hanna's writing and Melati.

Melati was just so strong–even though she might not seem like it on first glance. The race riots and being separated from her mother is extremely stressful, especially with her anxiety and OCD, and it was A Lot for any teen to go through. I think Alkaf handled this extremely well, both showing how Melati felt like she couldn’t get through this and how she felt like she couldn’t reach her mother, all while she still persisted.

That inner strength was so nice to read about, and Melati is a wonder for getting through everything that was happening. Her entire growth and discovery of inner strength was really powerful, and I loved that about this book.

Plus, Hanna's showing of the historic race riots of 1969 in Malaysia was so well done, and the way she showed the history revealed the racial tensions between the Chinese and the Malay, and how both “sides” had their flaws. There was a certain scene at the end that read really powerfully for me, and this is definitely another highlight of the book.

I found The Weight of Our Sky wholly relatable on a lot of different levels. There haven’t been many books with Southeast Asian protagonists by Southeast Asian authors, but The Weight of Our Sky hit really close to home for me. Although this wasn’t a perfect match for rep with me (I’m Indonesian, not Malaysian), some of the elements–like when the students said terima kasih to their teacher–I recognized from my mother’s own stories about Indonesia. And the race riots, although somewhat different, that she lived through when she was a college student.

I laughed (the puns!), I cried, and I raged while reading this book, and Hanna really pushed the readers to experience the rollercoaster that is this novel, which I loved.

The whole story was paced well, so some moments where it needed to slow down and take a breath, it did, and other moments where the story sped up and kept you furiously flipping the pages, it also satisfied the need. And the ending absolutely tore me apart, but seeing Hanna come out of it stronger, which made it all worth it.

If you’re looking for a book that really hits you in the feels, definitely check out The Weight of Our Sky! I promise, you won’t regret it. I certainly didn’t.

I look forward for the next book Hannabrings us, because this was a spectacular debut and one that I will definitely find myself rereading time and time again.

Thank you so much to Hanna Alkaf for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Profile Image for lisa.
2,071 reviews300 followers
February 16, 2019
3.5-4 stars

I was lucky to get an ARC through Twitter from the author because I've been dying to read this. Not only Hanna is Malaysian, but this book is also set in baby!Malaysia, 12 years after Independence, and during the racial riots.

This book was A Ride, okay. I finished it all in one sitting because I couldn't make myself stop.

The plot was simple--Melati was caught in the riots and had to find a way back to her mother--but I was captivated by all the details surrounding that: the love, the hate, the muhibbah. The little Malaysian mentions like ais kacang. I got so emo when it was revealed that the title of the book was taken by the Malay saying di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung. It was just so fitting with the whole story.

The Weight of Our Sky meant a lot to me; I finally got to read a book about people exactly like me and whose experiences I could relate. I don't know what else to say other than I love it, and I want more of it. Will certainly keep my eye out for more of Hanna's works.



I don't read YA anymore but I'll make an exception for this book #MalaysiaBoleh

also I'm lowkey scared because the 1969 riots and the racial tension are two (2) sensitive things so I'm curious as to how the author is going to portray that-
Profile Image for Bookevin.
920 reviews824 followers
February 5, 2019
5 stars

Take all the stars if you want, Hanna Alkaf. Melati’s empowering story deserves everything in a world at a loss.

I would give myself a knock in the head if I didn’t enjoy this profound book. Nostalgic and bittersweet, nothing makes me prouder than reading my country’s history in a YA book and I’m so proud of Hanna for writing this story.

Full review to come.

FEB 5, 2019! Please come sooner.

I am on tenterhooks, just waiting for the marvel that is Hanna Alkaf to write an UNAPOLOGETICALLY MALAYSIAN story, which is published by an American publisher.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,302 reviews384 followers
September 16, 2021
The author did a good job in warning about it's sometimes very difficult and triggering topics in front of the book. I was surprised in how readable I found the story to be, even though it's content. It was written so well and it was easy getting invested in the plot and characters. Set in Malaysia in 1969 The protagonist Melati battles both with OCD and the feeling about being possessed by a Djinn that could kill her mom if she doesn't count and other OCD stuff to make him happy. At the same time there is race riots. I don't know anything about most of the topics discussed in this book but found this to be captivating and sometimes difficult read but at the same time I've learned a bit. I highly recommend this book
Profile Image for Farah.
767 reviews90 followers
March 10, 2019
Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung =
" Where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rules of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We make our own sky, and we can hold it up—together.” Melati Ahmad, 16 year old student from Kg.Baru, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - A fictional character starring in a non fiction tragic event back in May 13th 1969.

Hanna Alkaf was unheard of before The Weight In Our Sky. I came across a review on this book and when I saw May 13th and Djinn, I made up my mind that I should read this. To everyone, Melati (Jasmine in English) was just a normal 16 year old student who loved her family and The Beatles but only selected few knew about the djinn that was haunting her through its voice and horrifying visuals. To top it off, the May 13th tragedy happened that did nothing but added more miseries to Melati's state of mind.

This was not an easy read, it was really heartbreaking to see Melati fell again and again. I was literally begging the author to give Melati a break, she was only 16, no one should experience such hardship.

I was curious on how the author was going to approach the May 13th tragedy because it was caused by

- Racial issues being played by certain political parties - mindless idiots.

And triggered off

- A racial riot between the Malays and the Chinese

The author successfully took me back in time and I became a spectator. As I walked along familiar streets and venues - I witnessed the ugliness of hatred but I also saw the beautifulity of kindness / unselfishness.

I went to the bookstore today to purchase the paperback and was informed that the author was going to be there for a meet and greet session. I became anxious as I was a meet and greet with author virgin and googled on how to sit for it. I followed the dos and don'ts, got her to sign my paperback, complimented her on a job well done and cursed her silently on Melati's behalf (was teased unmercifully by my friends for letting her touched the book before wrapping it first) what an experience of a lifetime. Highly, highly recommended.
Profile Image for Faidz Zainal Abidin.
237 reviews8 followers
February 12, 2019
I am gonna write a letter to Dr M, and pass it to my husband, and tell him to forward it to the BPK. Our students need to read this in school instead of Jane Eyre. Okay fine. Maybe read both.

Thank you, Hanna. But I do have questions.
Profile Image for Basyirah.
248 reviews32 followers
June 28, 2019
After struggling with my slump, I finally, FINALLY, finished reading this book. It's good but I haven't been able to read it or any other book, I was on Netflix instead. Don't ask. Sorry this is not even the review for the book lmao I'm so sorry.

But anyway, THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY. Phew. What a rollercoaster read, man. I have read many good reviews about it and after experiencing it myself, I'm glad I read it too. I like the plot and its development through to the end. I like the flashbacks, I like how Melati's journey in finding her mum also led her to finding a new kind of friendship and family and love. I said rollercoaster because I have felt so many raw emotions whilst reading it and some of them were nasty. The loss, pain, and grief were all just too real. I could feel literal chills. I can't even begin to imagine how I'd react if I were in Melati's shoes. I'd probably just cry, like a lot.

I wouldn't say that I could personally relate to the characters, but I could empathise with Melati's OCD condition. The whole thing being mistaken as Djinn is just emotionally draining. I mean, even now we still mistake mental illness with this sort of things. You hear voices in your head? COME LET'S FIND USTAZ TO CURE YOU! Let's be honest, some of us still have to go through this whenever we talk about depression or anxiety. And I could relate so hard whenever people faced Melati's breakdowns and making it seem like she's overreacting.

All the newfound relationships Melati built along the way in finding her way back to her mum really brought along some decent, important life lessons. And for that I'm grateful as it served as reminders for me. Such a good book, you guys. Filled with nostalgia, painful and harsh history, and a great take on what OCD looks like to people who are not familiar with it.

God and I weren't currently on speaking terms.

I also could relate to the part when Melati said this line I quoted above. Faith is a tricky thing. In times of darkness, it's hard to say that you have any left. But as long as you keep trying to look for a reason to believe, it's alright, I guess. Somehow, for me, I always find my way back to be on speaking terms with God. And I'm glad Melati did too.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank Pansing for sending me a copy of The Weight of Our Sky in exchange for my honest review. It is available in all good bookstores!
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,206 followers
July 20, 2018
Brutally honest, sincere, and heartfelt, THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY offers a window into a place you may not know and to a time you may not be familiar with. The book with simmers with tension and danger. You accompany Melati as she navigates familiar roads made unfamiliar in a chaotic world she thought she once knew. You hold Melati's hand as she battles her very own demon and you will her to win because giving in is not a choice. This book will probably make you cry so I recommend you read it with a box of tissues and ice cream. But however you go about it, make sure you do read it because Melati's story needs to be heard.
Profile Image for kate.
1,148 reviews926 followers
May 6, 2019
4.75* A beautifully put together story of a young girls desperate journey to reunite with her mother, despite the riots in the streets and the one in her mind.

There was an air of tension hovering over each sentence in this book and an urgency that made me anxious with every page I turned. I thought the candid, raw approach to Melati’s OCD and anxiety was fantastic. It brilliantly explored how debilitating and isolating mental illness can be at times, whilst also being hopeful, showing that having a mental illness doesn’t define you, nor does it prevent you from having an incredible amount of strength and bravery.

Despite going through so much in such a short amount of time, I loved the way Alkaf managed to make Melati and the way she reacted to the situation she found herself in, feel incredibly genuine.

Shamefully, I knew next to nothing about the 1969 Malaysian race riots prior to reading this book and while this book inspired me to do further reading of the event, I was awed by the way in which Alkaf depicted them. It was a brilliantly balanced illustration of the events that gave enough information for someone who knew nothing about them to easily follow the story, as well as learning about this important historic event.

Another aspect I absolutely adored? The trigger warnings in the authors note at the begging. It’s so simple and easy to do but can make a world of difference to readers. And to authors adamantly against trigger warnings, it didn’t spoil anything and made me appreciate the book and author ever more.

Personally, I felt the ending was a little rushed and despite liking the way it concluded, I wish it had been expanded on a little further. However, I think the fact that the only criticism I have of this book basically comes down to ‘I didn’t want it to end’, I think it’s safe to say I thought this book was superb.

If you’re looking for a beautifully written story featuring wonderful characters, strong relationships and a plot that will have your heart pumping from start to finish, The Weight of Our Sky is a must read.

TW: OCD, ableist language, ableism, racism, panic attacks, anxiety
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,292 reviews2,287 followers
October 20, 2020
This one represents OCD so well.
What I really DID NOT like or which I find disturbing is that doctors are represented so poorly when it comes to giving advice or counselling in this particular series. We docs do not behave like that and we never say that teenagers or kids or any person of any age and situation that they have less responsibilities or talk to them on such disgraceful terms. Only a few rotten apples may exist but as a whole docs are not like that. And yes, this might spread a very wrong message to the readers, youngsters and everyone as a whole. Especially those who are struggling with mental health issues. Seriously, that is so wrong.
Profile Image for Maisha  Farzana (on hiatus).
551 reviews215 followers
August 11, 2021
Beautiful....mind blowing....One of my all time favourites. It's not only a historical fiction but also much more than that. You definitely should read it.

I just lovee this book.😍😍😍
Profile Image for Frank-Intergalactic Bookdragon.
544 reviews214 followers
June 5, 2019
Trigger warnings: graphic violence, death, racism, OCD, and anxiety triggers.

I honestly don't know how to review this like normally but I have Thoughts™ so I'm just gonna list them and hope it's coherent.

-this was a breath of fresh air for YA.
-Melati had one of the best arcs with mental illness I've read.
-most of the tension is caused by Melati's anxiety which I found extremely interesting.
-as an American I didn't know about the May 13 Incident before reading this and I feel like I learned a lot about it.
-neither side of the riots is shown to be right or wrong, instead they're just people in a complicated and bad situation which I really appreciated.
-the atmosphere is rich and unapologetically Malaysian.
-it's really short so reading this isn't a big commitment and you could probably start and finish it in just a few hours.

Overall Hanna Alkaf put a lot of compassion and research into The Weight of Our Sky and it really shows. I recommend it to anyone who isn't bothered by the trigger warnings.
Profile Image for John.
131 reviews67 followers
March 2, 2019
Hanna Alkaf's The Weight of Our Sky is definitely a timely read in the midst of this turbulent era divided by racial identities and political ideologies. It's officially one of my fav reads in 2019.
Profile Image for Elvina Zafril.
519 reviews86 followers
April 15, 2019
The Weight of Our Sky is really a good book. Reading this book got me so emotional.

The story is about a girl named Melati who has mental illness and just want to find her mother. It sets in Malaysia in 1969 to be exact where the race riots happened.

I can’t imagine what Melati is going through, to witness all the murders, all the bodies. If I were Melati, I’d probably give up. I liked her because she’s so strong. She never stopped finding her mother, she never gave up.

There are parts where when the story was getting intense and I was about to cry because it really touched my poor heart. All the words that the Djinn said made me even more sadder. Poor Melati.

This story is worth reading. Well written! Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Unknown Reader.
74 reviews52 followers
September 19, 2021
I have so much to say, I don’t know where to start. I connected with each and every character, down to the most minor ones. They were like real people to me.

The story revolves around Melati Ahmed, a Malay girl with OCD and a love for music, especially the Beatles. The backdrop of the story is the 1969 Malaysia riot, and the story follows Melati as she struggles to unite with her mother in the riots.

The story does a good job in world building and setting each scenes. The story also does a job in showing both the sides - the Chinese and Malays. The suffering of each side is clear and the effects of the riots is obvious. Despite the distressing backdrop, the story sets a hopeful tone by showing us the good of the people too. Malays, Chinese, and the Indians uniting together to help each other through this tough time was heartwarming.

Of course, the riots isn’t the only conflict for Melati here…

I have no experiences with OCD but I still feel like the author does a good job at accurately portraying mental illnesses. We see the disorder take a toll at Melati, making her seem like if she doesn’t tap enough, her mother and all her close ones will die.
It was still inspiring to see her bravely try to find her mother amidst both the riots and her mental illness.

And then the characters. I don’t want to divide characters into main and side characters, because every character serves some purpose here. Even characters with few scenes create an impact which is unforgettable. Those characters seem real, like if they were actually people like that.

The story might be fictional but all those events were real. We hear about riots, war, fights..almost everyday but from an outsider’s perspective they all come down to numbers. But hearing about these events from a personal perspective is real, every number becomes a real person, every place become vivid and suddenly those events become real to us like if we were there to watch it.

I’ll recommend this book to everyone who wants to see both the good and bad side of a community. Those who wants to see how mental illness can severely affect someone despite knowing it’s ‘all in the head’. Those who want to see both sides of the riots, proving that there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ side. Just some people with false belief and misunderstandings. Those who wants to see the everlasting effects an disastrous event like riots can have on people.

Lastly, I want to recommend this book to people who want to understand how even subtle racism, insensitivity, ignorance, stigma related to mental health issues, ..etc can have lasting impact on people.
Profile Image for biblio_mom (Aiza).
587 reviews201 followers
February 7, 2020
I am not sure exactly where to begin. But this story is very gruesome which include graphic violence, intense fighting with deaths, & somehow triggering because of the racism, ocd and anxiety part! they send shivers down my spine.

I cried in two parts which when she had found her mother and come to knowing her bestfriend's death. I kinda hope there would be some romance will go on between Melati and the boy. but that did not happened.

Funny thing is, I can relate with the parts where malay called chinese as pigs and chinese saying "those cibai malays". sadly it happened in the real world (i've read them in facebook actually). with this Dong Zhong thing happening, I hope it settled down so we can just live in peace and harmony. but to he honest, i dont see much racism happening in my state, Sarawak. in fact, when i recalled back, out of i think 30 students in my class, theres only one "100% malay". the others are 3 chinese, 1 indian, a few ibans, one orang ulu and the "malays" are multi racial, like half chinese, half iban, half bidayuh, half kenyah and half melanau like myself 😂 so its actually hard to be racist.

the strongest value in this book is just to be kind despite what race you are, or even what religion you are. kindness knows no religion. have faith in love and humanity.
Profile Image for cherelle.
180 reviews156 followers
November 6, 2021
The Weight of our Sky was one of those books you can tell straight away, that it's a story deeply entrenched in emotion, and infused with the heart of the author. It follows Melati, a music-loving teenager with OCD during the race riots of 1969 in Kuala Lumpur.

“It means where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rules of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We make our own sky, and we can hold it up—together.”

This book for me hit close to home literally, with Singapore, not only being Malaysia's neighbour, but also one of its states briefly during a merger from 1963-1965. Singapore's most prominent racial riot was that of 1964, but it was also involved in the 1969 one this book portrayed, also between the Chinese and the Malays.

Each side of the riots were both fleshed out, the narrative was objective while still remaining personal, skewed to neither side. One thing I'm grateful for was how this period of mass havoc was neither romanticised, nor sensationalised. It was a heartfelt, honest story of a girl trying to find her mother amidst both internal and external 'demons'.

Furthermore, Alkaf was incredibly grounded in the purpose of growing Melati as a character. I'm not an #ownvoices reviewer for the OCD rep in this book, but I deeply appreciated the way it was portrayed in The Weight of our Sky, we got such insights into the struggles of Melati, felt her frustration and anxiety as we journeyed with her. One aspect I also loved was the exploration of the intersectionality between mental illness and spirituality, given that at time, mental illness was a taboo, and this awareness towards the time a striking characteristic of a good historical novel.

Honestly, the only thing that lowered my rating would be the rather uneven, repetitive pacing, as well as the writing style, which felt a little too simplistic to pass for a YA novel, and more suited for a middle-grade one.

At its core, The Weight of our Sky is about people. It's a contrast between violence due to lines of division, and genuine care for fellow human beings. A heartfelt historical fiction, would definitely recommend!

3 stars
Profile Image for Alyssa J..
170 reviews82 followers
January 22, 2019
Disclaimer: An ARC was provided to me by Pansing Distribution Malaysia and I also somewhat know the author of this book. My review is not affected by these two parties in any way.

I am heartbroken.

But it's not the heartbreak you feel because your favourite character died or an amazing book you've been reading has ended. No. It's a deeper, helpless kind of sadness. And here's why.

The Weight Of Our Sky is special. The young adult novel was born right here in Malaysia, written by a Malaysian author, and revolves around a dark spot in Malaysian history - May 13.

Our protagonist is 16-year-old Melati Ahmad who battles with a djinn inside her. With modern medicine, we can easily identify her djinn as nothing more than obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but things were different in 1969 (but in some ways, it remains the same in current times). With her masterful ability to hide the djinn insider her, she looks just like your average teenager who hangs out with her best friend at Rex Theatre and loves the Beatles.

However, the innocence of youth is completely shattered just a few chapters into the story. This is, after all, a book about a Malaysian racial massacre and we're living it through Mel's own eyes. Her firsthand experience of the events of May 13 happen right there in the Rex Theatre, where she was watching a movie with her best friend.

I would say that first incident sets the tone for the rest of the book, but the truth is that Hanna has managed to write a recount of history that is down-to-earth and somewhat "innocent", in some sense. One moment I was sick to the stomach at the senseless killing, the next second I’m laughing out loud, like at this moment:

Auntie Bee regards him through narrowed eyes for a minute, then decides to let it go. “Did you eat?”
Vincent snorts. “We’re in the middle of a riot and you can still ask me if I ate?”
“Well? Did you?”
“Yes, ma, I ate!” His head is turned away so I can’t see it, but I can feel the eye roll even from the back seat.

That doesn't mean the novel is all just "rainbow and glitter", because Hanna does not shy away from the facts of May 13 itself. It reads like a Malaysianised, fictional version of “Diary of Anne Frank”, but for May 13.

True to the Malaysian spirit, the cast of characters are also diverse - from race, religion, personality, and most importantly, beliefs. May 13 wasn’t a (figuratively) "black and white" event, and Hanna writes that clearly in the book. There are extremists on both sides of the divide, just as there are those who denounce such extremist beliefs.

"You ever hear anyone say words don't matter after this, you tell them about this day, when Malay idiots and Chinese idiots decided to kill one another because they believed what the bloody politicians told them."

OKAY, before I go on and on: The Weight Of Our Sky is a must-read for all Malaysians. We all know the quote by now, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Read it, understand it, and may we never repeat it.
Profile Image for Samantha.
231 reviews4 followers
February 26, 2019
Review can also be found here: https://awondrousescape.wordpress.com...

Man, I had a hard time getting through this book. Melati’s description of the Djinn in her head and the graphic violence were too much for me to handle and I found myself having to take frequent breaks from the book. That’s how you know that the writing is incredibly powerful and realistic.

As a Malaysian, I learned of the May 13 riot from my History textbook, and like most of my peers (I assume), have thought nothing much of it. I knew that the Malays and Chinese fought each other, and I knew it was bad, but that was about it. I was never particularly intrigued. So to be reading about it in present tense, to be visualizing the grisly events unfolding in real time as if I was physically present in KL on that day, gave me goosebumps.

TWoOS is unflinching in its honesty, dark, disconcerting, poignant and heart-wrenching. This book is a must-read for all Malaysians, if not the rest of the world. It serves as a reminder of what not to repeat. Sure, we have come a long way since then, but racism is still very much prevalent in our country today. Hopefully we’ll see it in Malaysia’s English curriculum in the near future, because a few sentences in a textbook just does not suffice.

"Di mana bumi dipijak, di situ langit dijunjung. Have you heard this before? It means where we plant our feet is where we must hold up the sky. We live and die by the rules of the land we live in. But this country belongs to all of us! We make our own sky, and we can hold it up - together."

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that a Malaysian story, our story, has actually been published by an international publisher. It’s out there in bookstores all over the world, reaching an international audience! Growing up, I learned so much about (mostly) American culture via books and TV, and now it’s their turn to learn about us! It’s all so crazy to me. Congrats to Hanna Alkaf, and I sincerely thank you for writing this book. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

I was sent an ARC by Pansing in exchange for a review. This is my honest review. Special thanks to Hanna Alkaf and Pansing.
Profile Image for yun with books.
544 reviews212 followers
January 15, 2022

"Do not ever let anyone tell you that you do not belong here,” she had said, looking at us intently.
"We all do. There is space for us all."

[TW: OCD, graphic contents, murders, anxiety]

One word only for this book: WOW .
The Weight of Our Sky is the first Malaysian lit I've ever read, and it doesn't disappoint me. The story begins with Melati, sixteen years old girl who trapped in political-and-deadly chaos between Chinese ethnic and Malay ethnic in 1969 Malaysia. She thinks she has "the djinn" who lives in her body, it turns out that she has an extreme anxiety and OCD. With all of those difficulties, Melati has to find her mother and survive the riot.

First of all, I'd say "DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE TO JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!", and honestly this book has the ugliest cover I've ever seen. Like.. what the hell.
Second of all, I love this book so much, and it's really a quick read for me. The plot is so intriguing, heart gripping, haunting, yet addictive. I love how Hanna Alkaf wrote every gruesome parts of this book with details that haunted every single one of her readers, including me.
One of many reasons I like this book so much, it's because the historical part of this book reminds me of Indonesia in 1998, we have this ethnicity riot,chaos and murder, you know. So, more or less I learned that Malaysia and Indonesia have the very same ethnicity conflict, even though they happened years apart.

For the characters, it's amazing how amazing the way Alkaf describes very carefully and thoroughly about OCD and anxiety in Melati's head. Like... now I understand, it must be difficult being an OCD and anything like that. It's messing my head too everytime I read this book, like... it's inviting me to go in to Melati's messy head.
Not only the messy part, but it also has a warmth part, Aunty Bee, Vincent, May and others. It's... beautiful.

Overall, this book is strong and whole, both at its plot or its characters. I strongly recommend this, but be careful with the trigger warnings.
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