Lesley Choyce’s Shoulder the Sky is a young adult novel that gives an honest depiction of a teenager’s grief after the loss of his mother. Martin Emerson’s mother painted pictures no one understood and wanted to drive to Alaska. Then she died, and her son is now seen to be acting too “normal” considering the circumstances. He continues to be the “intellectual snot” loner that he always has been.
The novel is fast paced with mostly dialogue, and includes themes of death, life, rebellion, and sex, and is set in a contemporary Canada. As the concept that every person has website or blog is now commonplace, it is easy to understand that Martin uses this outlet to rant about the world, and it is identifiable to most people. The articles that he posts, that are included in the book by separating clouds with thunderbolts, include topics that range from Salvador Dali, Hieronymus Bosch, Jules Verne, Immanuel Kant, Herodotus, and Nietzsche. It is possible that a young adult audience would not be familiar with these concepts, and it may, as it did to me when I read this in the eleventh grade, interest the reader into researching the people or topics that are discussed.
While I read this book in the eleventh grade, there is nothing that would hinder, perhaps, a ninth or tenth grade student to read this novel. While it does speak about sex, it is more about the protagonists lack of interest in sex. The only negative I can say about this book is that it has an awful cover of a boy glowering back at you, arms crossed and smug, and it is not at all what I picture Martin to look like. If a reader enjoys reading books that are “sad” in nature, I would highly recommend this. 5/5____________________________________________________________________________________
(The Review ends here. Following is something that I want to say about the cover. I don't know why, but I always seem to be thinking about how things are marketed to audiences. This novel is for a Young Adult Audience. The protagonist is an "intellectual snot" that doesn't really fit in. The man on the cover just irks me. When I first saw this book, I was actually looking at the book from the back description, as it was laying on a table in a classroom for anyone to take. I began to read it and was intrigued. When I looked at the cover I was horrified. He doesn't depict the character at all. In fact, he reminds me of this young man I used to have painting lessons with. I think his name was Stephen, but honestly, I've tried to forget him. He was the kind of guy who pretended to know everything by saying whatever nasty thing came into his mind about whatever you were speaking of. If you said your couch was red, he would say it was brown, even though he never saw your couch in his life, then, he would make fun of your couch, and you. The pasty-yellow guy all dressed in black with one eye brow raised like he's a diabolical genius doesn't fit on the cover. Period.)