22501055Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: starstarstarblank_starblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

A powerful story of friendship and sacrifice, for fans of Code Name Verity

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship – Goodreads


I went into Under a Painted Sky knowing just about nothing about it. All I knew as that, my friend Jen, adored it and that my friend Lauren wanted to read it for our book club. I also know that it was well talked up at ALAMW15 and that the cover is awesome. Otherwise I knew nothing. I was the Jon Snow of this book.

Under a Painted Sky did not disappoint. Under A Painted Sky is the story of Samantha, a girl who wants to be back in New York, and not in Missouri. Nothing is going right in Missouri. Missouri is wear people aren’t equal, particularly if you’re a Chinese girl who’s father just died in a fire. As soon as her father dies in the fire, Samantha trusts her landlord, who is not trustworthy..at all. He’s a vile man, and thankfully Samantha stands up for herself. But, by standing up for herself, she ultimately kills him. With the help of a runaway slave, Annamae, Samantha is able to clean up her mess and ultimately free for the Oregon Trail.

I struggled with this book, as a mood reader, I couldn’t get into the story for the longest time and that hurt, because I wanted to be into it! I wanted to love it like everyone else in my life loved it! And I did. Although it took me a bit, I did ultimately fall in love with the characters, Sam and Andy and those who they find on the road to California.

The two find out that the journey was not as simple as they expected it to me. From forks in the road, to cops on the look out, to the fact that their diversity is extremely noticeable. Sam is Chinese and Andy is African American and this added multiple layers to Under a Painted Sky. While discrimination is still something that people are fighting, it was even a bigger war in the mid-nineteenth century where a Civil War had yet to be fought. Andy gets asked for her papers, and Sam gets asked how she (he) speaks English so well, because this was not something people were used to.

Although I was hesitant to enter this world, Under A Painted Sky did not disappoint. If anything, I ended this story wanting more of it. Lately I’ve been enjoying books with strong female friendships. I understand, you are all shocked! But I have been. I love them all! And Under A Painted Sky did not disappoint in this matter. While there are romantic undertones to the novel, not once did I feel that was the main point of Under A Painted Sky. Instead the concentration was on the strong female friendship and the growth of two girls who did not have an easy life. They both have very different backgrounds, but those backgrounds make both of the characters so much stronger and the two slowly become their own family. It also did not disappoint in how well researched it was. As a librarian with a history background, I can point out what a well researched book looks like, and Under a Painted Sky is so well researched I want to hug Lee for doing due diligence and making this beautiful novel. I cannot see what she makes next.