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The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

The Waiting Sky

by Lara Zielin

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While it's incredibly unlikely that you'll ever find me chasing any tornadoes - for fun, for research, or some combination of the two - I do have to admit that fictionalized accounts of those that do are interesting to me. (The 'reality' versions, oddly less so.)

Lara Zielin's The Waiting Sky uses the storm chasers and their quest to find the next great, big tornado and gather information from it as a backdrop to telling seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister's story. Living all of her teen, as well as most of her childhood, years alone with her alcoholic mother, Jane's learned how to take care of her mother.

In their troubled relationship, Jane makes as much money as she can babysitting - even to the detriment of her school work - pays the bills, lies for her mother and manages as best she can. Her mother, meanwhile spends all of the money (mostly on alcohol), forgets about bills, spends too much time in bars, and puts Jane in danger.

Jane's older brother, Ethan, left when she was just a kid and she's forever blamed him for (as she sees it) abandoning not only her but their mother as well. Now, he - after some urging from her best friend, too - has finally convinced Jane to spend the summer with him - and the tornado chasing team he's a part of.

While everyone else, including the gorgeous, charming Max, is sure that time apart is what Jane's mother - and more importantly, Jane - need for a real chance at healing, Jane's not so sure. She's used to watching out for her mother.

Will she stay with Ethan - for the whole summer and maybe even past it - or will she return home to Minnesota and the dysfunctional relationship with her alcoholic mother, even if it means losing her best friend and continuing the same life?

I've never really thought before how perfect that chaos and ultimate unpredictability of tornadoes are to be paired alongside a story of someone dealing with addiction. The tornadoes the teams chase parallel, in a way, Jane's mother - or her relationship with her mother. There are false starts, things that seem like they're going to be more than they ultimately are, things that cause more damage than is first known.

The two work together extremely well, both for readers and for Jane. Both story lines - the team chasing the tornadoes and Jane working out her relationship with her mother (and brother) while quite different, are both very strong and blend together nicely in The Waiting Sky.

As a story about addiction or a character dealing with someone with addiction, The Waiting Sky is different than any I've read; it removes Jane from the situation.We don't as much of her in the every day, routine of coping with her mother. That's also where I think The Waiting Sky is strongest and most unique, however. Jane deals with her guilt, mixed emotions and uncertainty away from her mother, with people not completely familiar with the situation and without the constant presence of her mother. All without the novel losing any depth or impact - possibly gaining a new kind.

With a great cast of characters (you might even want to start talking like a pirate a bit - it's safer than tornado chasing), the right touch of romance, fantastic family relationships and a great complex main character The Waiting Sky is one not to miss!

A great contemporary, realistic fiction novel you'll want to run out and pick up - it's out Thursday.
  BookSpot | May 18, 2015 |
Originally posted at Romance Around the Corner

This book caught my attention because it sounded similar to the movie Twister. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I’m glad I read it.

Jane McAllister’s mother is an alcoholic. Her brother left home as soon as he could, leaving Jane to fend for herself. She handles the situation as best as she can, or at least as best as she thinks she should. She pays the bills, covers for her mother and is basically the adult responsible to take care of their crumbling home. Her brother asks her to move with him, but she can’t leave their mom.

Things get complicated when Jane’s mother causes an accident that almost kills them and her best friend, Cat. When Cat tells her that it’s time so seek help because covering for her mother is not helping anyone, Jane realizes that she can’t keep denying what’s going on. So she decides to join her brother Ethan and his team of tornado-chasing friends. Spending time away from her mother helps her put things in perspective, but is that enough to make the right decision? She’s very conflicted so it’ won’t be easy.

When I picked this book, I was expecting an action-oriented plot. After all, the characters chase storms and tornadoes. But although there’s a part of the book that’s clearly about the adventure, the heart of the story is Jane trying to come to terms with her mother’s alcoholism, her resentment towards her brother, and ultimately deciding to stop sacrificing her life to take care of her mother who clearly isn’t willing to get better.

Jane was a great heroine. She is in a tricky situation, one of those that are really easy to figure out when you see them as an outsider, but not so easy when they happen to you. Her character reflected that conflict because although at times it was obvious she knew what was right, it was just as obvious that she was trying to convince herself of the contrary. She knew that protecting her mother wasn’t helping, but she kept making excuses. I thought it was an interesting portrayal of the situation, it felt authentic and it gave Jane a reason to be much more mature than your regular teenager.

Another significant aspect of the book was Jane’s relationship with her brother, Ethan. Since we only see him through Jane’s eyes, he mostly comes across as a self-involved nice guy. He’s not evil, and he wants what’s best for Jane, but he’s not willing to sacrifice his life for her. I was an interesting contrast between those characters and I would have loved to see more of their relationship and maybe even into his head. We don’t get his POV, and I think it was a missed opportunity to give his character some depth.

The romance doesn’t overtake the plot but it’s very sweet. In just a few pages there are a couple of cute scenes, a big misunderstanding and a grand gesture. So I’m calling it a romance. Max was just a love interest but I really like their story and how realistic and appropriate the resolution was.

I liked the adventure aspect of the book, but it felt a bit disjointed. The only correlation between tornado chasing and Jane’s situation was a subplot involving a secondary character suffering from PTSD. But I just felt like her story would have worked against any other background, not just this one in particular. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the action, but it’s not the main reason why the book worked for me.

Overall this was an entertaining story that deals with a dark subject and yet manages to be light at the same time. It's dramatic, but not overly so. The main character is conflicted and compelling. The ending was a bit rushed, but I was satisfied with how things turned out for everyone involved, a realistic happy ending with no miracles. I think fans of YA will love it. ( )
  Brie.Clementine | Mar 31, 2013 |
Beyond seeing the movie Twister back in the 1990s, I knew next to nothing about storm chasers. Lara Zielin really takes you into the eye of the storm, offering an inside look at the teams who follow tornados to do scientific research and gain fame. Jane is part of the Tornado Brothers, but a rival team, the Twister Blisters, are hot on their heels. Zielin does a great job of using the tornados as a metaphor for Jane's stormy relationship with her mother. It was heartbreaking to watch Jane struggle to support her mother, who claims to want to address her drinking problem but clearly will have to hit bottom first.

Read full review on my blog!
  JenRyland | Mar 30, 2013 |
Review originally posted http://hobbitsies.net/2012/08/the-waiting-sky-by-lara-zielin/

Twister is one of my favourite movies ever. I used to play a game I made up called “Storm Chasers” on the playground as a kid. So when The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin opened up with a quote from Twister, I already knew I was going to love this book.

And The Waiting Sky did not let me down – I loved everything about it. Lara Zielin combines storm chasing with real issues like alcoholic mothers and everything is a metaphor for the other and I just loved the way she tied everything together so beautifully.

The Waiting Sky’s storytelling absolutely masterful in the way that Lara Zielin was able to tie it all together so when you were reading on event, you could easily see it back to something to do with Jane’s mother. Every thread of the story connected to another and it flowed so beautifully.

And the storm chasing itself was awesome! I loved the rivalry and the betting and all the characters on the Tornado Brothers team. I loved the idea of a group of college and PhD students going around chasing storms in the summertime to test their inventions and…the whole concept of The Waiting Sky was awesome.

Plus, you know, the romance. It was just a sweet side story between Jane and Max that I really liked.

The whole issue with Jane’s mother in The Waiting Sky was heartbreaking and realistic. It was so evident how much Jane was struggling with it all and everyone kept trying to help her and it just broke my heart.

I loved the ending of The Waiting Sky. It was exactly what I was hoping for – and I’m not going to lie, I would totally read a sequel to The Waiting Sky.

Essentially, if you’re a fan of contemps with masterful storytelling, not to mention lots of awesome and a heavy dose of realistic situations, do not miss The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin. ( )
  hobbitsies | Aug 23, 2012 |

Third time is definitely the charm.

The most fun of paying attention to a particular author is to see how her writing transforms over the years, from the first book onwards. It is beyond clear that Zielin's confidence in her writing has vastly improved since the beginning: I may have loved Donut Days but I really LOVED The Waiting Sky.

In part, this is because Zielin has adeptly tackled a very difficult subject: that of alcoholism and how it affects entire families. I learned a ton reading this book-- that interactions among family members are beyond complex when a disease of this type takes hold, that self-awareness of one's feelings on this subject are incredibly difficult to decipher, and that it takes one tough cookie to work out the solution to these problems. I'll admit I stayed up way, way too late to finish this novel one evening because the last 75 pages would not let me go. I had to know how our protagonist worked her way through everything being thrown at her.

Plus, it has tornadoes in it! I also learned a boatload about their destructive capabilities. And no, you will not catch me as a tornado tourist at any point in the future. Yipes.

With these double (or triple) whammies, there is no doubt in my mind that this novel will have a cult following when it comes out this summer. ( )
  khage | Feb 28, 2012 |
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Minnesota seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister has devoted years to helping her out-of-control, alcoholic mother but joining her brother in chasing tornadoes for a summer gives her a fresh perspective, new options, and her first real romance.

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