Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle

Summary:  13 year-old Martin lives in a dome where babies are advertised on television and delivered by storks, window decals mark the changing of seasons and no one is allowed to ask questions.  When Martin’s six year-old sister Cassie is recalled along with all the other kids in the dome aged six and under, Martin is the only one who seems to care.  His love, loyalty, and curiosity, along with his faithful Alldog, Chip, lead him on a dangerous journey to find his sister and discover the truth behind the world he lives in.

Dystopian Issues:  Totalitarian Government, Eugenics
Part of a Series: Yes
Next in Series:  The Walls Have Eyes
Age of Main Character: 13
Number of Pages:  229
Year of Publication:  2008
Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Review:  There are so many things I love about this book.
     First, the characters.  Martin, a smart, caring thirteen year-old who promises his sister he will find her when she is taken away and does everything he can to keep his promise.  Cassie, the extremely precocious six year-old who wants to know the why behind everything and loves her older brother deeply.  And Chip, the faithful Alldog who will do anything to win Martin's affection and help him out.
     I loved specific things like when Cassie is describing an updated version of Peter Pan to her family, and how Chip, as a robot contained by a jelly-like substance, has the ability to morph into pretty much whatever Martin needs and get him into secure places.  I also love the part where Martin's friends hack a zombie video game to merge it with a SimCity type game and have the zombies take over the frightened Sims. 
     Dunkle pulls together elements from Stephen King's The Running Man (book and film versions), George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and her own unique ideas to create a world where everyone is being watched and controlled to be good consumers and sheep.  Her attention to detail and love of her characters makes this book a joy to read and not depressing, even though it contains serious dystopian issues such as living with a totalitarian government and using eugenics to create the younger generations.
     The Sky Inside feels like a cautionary tale about the dangers of designer babies and believing propaganda.  Dunkle explores what would happen to society if babies were bred in labs with specific characteristics that are not valued by a totalitarian government.  Talk about using the system to subvert the system!
     Ultimately though, this book is a moving story about the bond between a brother and his sister, and his unwillingness to simply accept that her recall is the best solution.  Martin isn't out to fix society, just save the people that he loves.
     At the end of this book I have just one thing to say.  I want to be a fourteen.

Real-Life Dystopia:  I've been reading Eugenics by David Galton and am fascinated by the increasing role eugenics is playing in our society.  Eugenics is used in in-vitro fertilization to ensure a fetus without a genetically inherited disease is implanted in its mother.  Unfortunately, eugenics has the ability to be misused quite easily, as in the case of Nazi Germany's ideas of exterminating the Jews and in India and China where ultrasounds that determine the baby's sex often lead to the abortion of female fetuses.

Memorable Quotes: "It was the distance that fascinated him first.  After a lifetime of living with a steel ceiling and a concrete floor, the vastness of the living landscape was like a drug.  He stood on the top of a hill, a concept he had known before from sandbox games, but this hill was an enormous thing, and the ground fell gradually from it for a long, long way.  The ground below the hill wasn't flat either.  It undulated, rising in curves and falling in scoops.  Off to his left, high hills like a fence seemed ready to blockade the clouds themselves."
     -  The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle, pg 144-145

     "The trees straggled down a nearby ridge and spilled into the field, like a crowd of people who had followed two or three leaders.
     Martin stood in their shade, put his hands into the ribs their bark, and felt wonder deep in his heart.  They were not tall and powerful like the I beans that ribbed the steel dome, but their branches swayed, and their leaves rustled in the wind.  He could tell that they were alive."
     -  The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle, pg 148

Author Web Site:  http://www.claredunkle.com/

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