The Sky So Heavy is a dystopian novel set in Sydney’s Blue Mountains in the current day. When disaster strikes and something goes wrong with a nuclear test, Fin must do what he can to survive in an increasingly inhospitable world. Will he reach the supposed safety of the city and will anything happen with Lucy, the elusive and beautiful girl at his school?
Zorn’s book complements similar dystopian fiction, reminding me of Louise Lawrence’s Children of the Dust, one of the influences in Zorn’s conception of The Sky So Heavy. Zorn spent years thinking about the concept for The Sky So Heavy, and when she became disillusioned with the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia and around the world, she wanted to use this story to explore the concept of abstract exclusion, based on political or situational parameters, with the construction of a typical Australian family facing an environmental and social disaster.
The immediacy of Zorn’s writing, jumping straight into the story almost at the point of disaster, is one of the techniques that make strong YA writing so enticing.
In my opinion, every good YA novel has a love story. It can be a simple flutter or a longer dalliance, but so much of the pain and vulnerability of our teen years is centred around the burgeoning awareness of sexuality. And just because there’s an apocalypse doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a good love story to heighten the tension and increase the attachment to character, which Zorn does well.
Zorn’s protagonist, Fin, is engaging, likeable and fallible, making him easy to relate to. Her writing is accessible for both adults and children. The text is first person and present tense, typical for YA writing, but the concepts are handled in a sophisticated manner and with no apologies.
Young adult fiction has been contentious recently, with discussions ranging around whether adults should be reading it at all. I’m firmly on the YA-fiction-for-everyone side and, the dystopian The Sky So Heavy is a good example of why it’s important not to draw an uncrossable line between adult and children’s fiction. It’s successful in subtly exploring the concept of a disengagement that both adults and teenagers may experience due to our world’s political and environmental situation. Zorn also hooked me onto that important question that every writer wants their reader to ask themselves: what would I do, if I was in the character’s position?
Amelia has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from UTS and a voracious need to experience everything life has to offer. She is also interning at the NSW Writers’ Centre. You can follow her on Twitter, here.