The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielen

Publication Date: August 2nd, 2012
Putnam Juvenile
Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
RATING 4 out of 5 Stars
One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane’s life for the better
Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can’t quite admit her mother’s alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane’s best friend.
Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty–is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture.
I’ve been known to dislike characters for their obliviousness – those that appear weak and stupid because they refused to acknowledge the severity of their situation until it’s too late. More often (and on my own accord), Jane drove me head first into a wall. Why?
  1.   Her definition of “normal mom behavior” defies every conceivable logic known to man.
  2. She was so quick to blame her brother for helping himself – for getting out of a situation and for thinking that there was a life outside of cleaning up after a drunken mother.
  3. For being the worst  – or best (depending on how you look at it) enabler ever.
  4. For refusing to acknowledge a problem, which includes lying, denying and covering for her mother.
  5. For not giving herself a chance at happiness, temporary or otherwise.
  6. For making herself unavailable, unattainable and unreachable – emotionally for other people other than her mother.

But heck, maybe I’m not being very forgiving or understanding of the difficult situations her mother kept putting her through and maybe I shouldn’t judge her until I was in her shoes. Maybe her way of coping with her shit life was knowing that no matter what happens, she could rest easy with the self-appeasing knowledge that she didn’t fully abandon her mother. It’s hard to understand, let alone sympathize with Jane. It’s hard to comprehend the sickness of her mother, Jane’s inability to see the truth, and Ethan’s seemingly effortless way in which he took off and abandoned his sister to spend her young life caring for an alcoholic.
Zielen’s latest work is a difficult and quick dose of hard-hitting realities of living with alcoholism; what forces a person to turn to drinking (an attempt to damper down a severe guilt) and what forces another to enable the addiction (unconditional love).  It also highlighted the frustration that everyone, directly affected by the addiction, felt as they try to help in their own ways. This frustration easily transferred to the reader as she (meaning me) wished for Jane to open her eyes and recognize her part in the problem.
VERDICT:  The Waiting Sky is a book about chasing storms, weathering the storms and living through the storms of life.  Lara Zielen’s writing brought forth a powerful story of a girl too young to be handling the difficulties of living with an addict. While Jane may seem weak with her inability to say what she needed to say in order to help her mother, she was strong for putting up for as long as she did. Her breakthrough came in slow progression and from unexpected people and places. Emotional, raw, with the adrenaline rush of chasing tornadoes – The Waiting Sky is a must-have in your reading pile.

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