Under a Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee

March 6, 2017

Review by Reid Dye

All Samantha wanted to do was to move back to New York with her father and pursue her music, which was hard enough for a Chinese girl in Missouri in 1849.  Then a tragic accident leaves her with nothing but herself, and then she accidentally murders her landlord in self defense.  With the help of Annamae, a runaway slave that she meets at the scene of her crime, the two stow away in a wagon heading for the west.  However,  life on the Oregon Trail is not safe for the two girls.  They disguise themselves as two boys, Sammy and Andy, heading for the California gold rush.  Each of them relies heavily on each other, and searches for a link to their past, while struggling to avoid unwanted attention.  Soon they merge paths with some cowboys. They bargain with them to take them with their horses for a month or two, and Samantha can’t stop herself from falling for one.  But the law is quickly closing in on them, and they suffered new setbacks every day.  The girls will soon learn that there is not much space to hide on the open trail.

Over the course of this fascinating novel,  we can clearly see that it has great metaphors and connections between characters, but could have had a better ending.  First, one of the things that made this book achieve four stars and partly make up for the bad ending.  One example of this is when Samantha is staring at someone and it says, “If eyes left footprints, this man’s face would be as worn as a welcome mat.”  This is one of the many amazing metaphors in this novel, metaphors that really let you see in your mind exactly what is happening.  We can also see that the connections between characters is another strong part in this book.  Samantha and Annamae’s friendship changes as it twists and turns with the plot.  One of the times when the book does this best is when Samantha and Annamae learn that they will have to split up in order to find the link to their past that they are searching for. Their friendship wavers at that point, and it is interesting to see how the characters handle themselves when they are together  However, there was one thing that I did not like about it: the ending.  I think that at the end, it seemed like the author was stressed and rushed when writing, and a ton of things happened right away that seemed like they definitely would have been better if the author went more in – depth when the events were happening.  Other than that, I think that this is a great novel which most people will enjoy.


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