Nicola Penfold’s much anticipated second book Between Sea and Sky is set in the near future. The inhabitants of the world have lived through The Decline, The Greedy Years, and the Hunger Years. People have been stripped of their rights, made to work in growing towers, and anyone not deemed towing the line is sent to a prison ship. The only hoping is in waiting for The Recovery.
When Nat discovers strange creatures, he can’t help but collect some. Especially when he see officials taking an interest too. But, Nat and his mum must leave the compound for an oyster farm to investigate a possible new good source. Preferring their isolated existence, Pearl and her dad are wary of outsiders. Landlubbers. Only Clover is more optimistic. However, Nat and his creatures disrupt the status quo and everyone learns that change is inevitable.
Dystopian fiction is the scariest fiction. Forget ghosts and monsters. Real terror comes from reality. News of natural disasters and increasingly controlling governments stalk our timelines, which niggle and worry, but we all seem to convince ourselves that it couldn’t really happen. Dystopian fiction tells us that actually, it could.
Between Sea and Sky shows us a world, or at most, I hope, an exaggerated one, we could be heading towards. However, this book’s focus is on recovery. It’s a book of positivity born from hardship. Written during the lockdown, you can see the relationship between the premise of the story, the restrictions that were in place and then the lifting of those restrictions.
I also enjoyed the shadowiness of an unseen antagonist. The focus is very much on people and their coming together. I wondered whether there was a connection to Central and the also unseen ever present Covid virus. All books are products of their time, but I don’t think this gets mentioned enough in the classroom. This book is an excellent example of how the world around us shapes art.
Told in first person, the narration switches between Nat and Pearl which works well; two equalled weighted protagonists can be hard to pull off. Pearl’s development is rewarding, and Nat’s consistency felt reliable and solid; it complemented Pearl’s confrontational nature perfectly.
Lovers of dystopian fiction and environmental themes will devour this. Great for UKS2 and KS3.
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