The Weight of Our Sky

Hanna Alkaf. Salaam Reads, $18.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5344-2608-5
In this intense historical drama set against the May 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a 16-year-old Malay who suffers from severe OCD fights for survival while searching for her mother. Melati Ahmad sees her OCD as a tragedy-invoking djinn that can only be appeased through counting and tapping rituals; if she doesn’t complete them, Melati fears, her mother will die a terrible death. The riots break out while she’s at the movies one afternoon, and Melati is saved and sheltered by a compassionate Chinese family, but she constantly imagines the worst for her mother while waiting for the chance to return home. Melati experiences acts of brutal cruelty and everyday heroism—her best friend is taken away by an execution squad, new acquaintances risk their lives to offer her aid. While Melati’s condition, exacerbated by the stress of her experiences, pushes her to her breaking point, her determination to reunite with her mother and help others in need gives her the inner strength to persist. This stunning debut from Malaysian author Alkaf filters Melati’s sympathetic internal narrative through a mental illness barely understood and poorly treated for the era, and the setting and secondary characters convey a visceral, nerve-wracking moment in time. This isn’t an easy story by far; an author’s note warns of “graphic violence, death, racism, OCD, and anxiety triggers”—but their inclusion makes it no less essential, no less unforgettable. Ages 12–up. Agent: Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/26/2018
Release date: 02/05/2019
Genre: Children's
Ebook - 978-1-5344-2610-8
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