Friday, March 27, 2015

Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Under A Painted Sky
by Stacey Lee
Read: March 17 - 19, 2015
Published: March 17, 2015 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: Penguin (THANK YOU!)
Category: Historical fiction, female friendship, Oregon Trail
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository 

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.

I didn't know what to expect when I started Under A Painted Sky, but I fell hard for this story.

Here's a five point list of things I loved: 

1) I loved the
 historical, American West, Oregon Trail setting with wagon trains, immigrants and outlaws. I'm a big fan of Wild West stories, and I loved exploring this time and place with Sammy and the other characters. Under A Painted Sky also reminded me how much of the West was settled by immigrants from everywhere. This book goes back to when America really felt like a big melting pot. 

2) I loved Samantha - turned Sammy - our Chinese narrator who blends her cultural traditions into the American setting. I really enjoyed experiencing life through Sammy's eyes, especially how she uses the Chinese zodiac to understand her world. Sammy was born in New York, raised by her father and is the most traditionally educated of her traveling companions. She's not physically strong and she admits herself that she's not the greatest at pretending to be a boy (I really liked this about her - I'd be bad at it too), but she is bright and resourceful, and is willing to do what she needs to survive. Sammy stole my heart.

3) I don't think Sammy would have gotten as far as she did the beginning if she hadn't befriended a slave girl named Annamae. After a majorly traumatic event, the two girls pretend to be boys and head West together. Andy has had a difficult life, but she inspired me with her optimism, drive and determination. She also knows a lot more about survival and she teaches Sammy what she knows. Andy sees the world very differently from Sammy's viewpoint, but these girls are able to find common ground and respect for each other. Sammy and Andy's strong friendship is at the core of this book, and one of my favorite elements. 

4) Three young cowboys - Cay, West and Peety - become traveling companions of Sammy and Andy, and I loved the group of five they become. I wasn't sure how they'd work together at first, but I so enjoyed all of their interactions. The boys' camaraderie was infections. Each of these characters (3 real boys + 2 fake boys) has their own strengths to contribute on their journey, and it was fun watching them all to learn to rely on each other. I enjoyed seeing the mutual respect that blooms between them, and how they all looked out for each other. It was also amusing to guess whether these guys had figured out about Sammy and Andy's real (female) identities. 

5) This book features a very slow burn romance. It is subtle and swoony and I loved watching it develop. Although, this book is low on angst, there is some drama that happens surrounding the romance, which is the one thing in this book that I didn't love at all. However, I really appreciated how the situation is handled and worked through with seriousness, and in the end I really fell hard for these two. 

Wild horses, waterfalls, river crossings, stampedes, illnesses, injuries, fugitives and lawmen, don't miss Under A Painted Sky. Bonus, that cover is absolutely perfect for this story, and the images mean even more after I've read the book. 

Love Triangle Factor: None 
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone (as far as I know)


  1. I haven't heard too much about this book yet. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much :)

    Great Review!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs

  2. I love this book. I am glad you enjoyed it too!

  3. It sounds so good! I am on the list at the library for it!

  4. Gorgeous review Lauren. <3 I'm so glad you enjoyed this book a whole lot. I have seen it around this week a bunch :) I'm curious about it, as it looks so gorgeous. Sigh. But don't think the plot sounds exciting enough for me :p Maybe one day :D But yay for loving it so! And for liking the romance :) But aw, a bit drama? Ugh. I don't like that either :\ Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this book sweetie. <3

  5. Great review! I love historical fiction so I can't wait to get my hands on t his one!!!
    I'm going to have to read this one really soon!

    Em @ The YA Book Butterfly

  6. It was on my list due to the premise alone, but your review really solidifies the fact that I want to read it. Thanks!

  7. Can you believe I've never read anything remotely western, historical or otherwise? That clearly needs to change Lauren! You know you had me sold at the friendship and the slow burn romance even if there is a little drama surrounding it. As long as it's handled well I'll be fine with it. Must read this immediately!

  8. Hmmm…I'm usually not the biggest historical fan, but I may have to give this one a try. Swoony slow burn romance along with girls pretending to be guys…I like the sound of that. And I always like when there's a group traveling together for some reason. Great review! ~Pam

  9. Ahhh, girl, you make me want to pick up this book right away! I do love that setting + the girls acting like boys (maybe unsuccessfully) + the slow burn romance. I hope to get to this one soon!

  10. I love girls undercover (as boys, that is)! Wasn't sure about this story, since I don't really go for Western historicals (it's so dirty! And smelly! I would have died of dysentery early on.), but it sounds interesting.


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