Review: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Review: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Under a Painted Sky
by Stacey Lee

Genres: Adventure, Historical, Western, Young Adult
Publication date: March 17th, 2015
by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Format: Hardcover


Amazon | Book Depository

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 received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Under a Painted Sky was one of my most anticipated novels of the year so diving into it, I was more than ready to love it. But did I love it? DID I? Nope. I lurved it. THIS IS A BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN, GORGEOUS NOVEL THAT I WANT TO SHOVE AT EVERYONE. And I am using caps to say this so you know I am serious! If you’re not sure about reading the book, just look at the pretty cover and give in to temptation. ITS CALLING OUT TO YOU ISN’T IT? You should give in.

You might be wondering why I am rambling so much, why I won’t actually get on with it and tell you why it was awesome but I don’t want to *whines*. I just want to sit here and stare at the cover and cry because the book was good. Why cannot that ever be enough? Huh? *throws hands in the air*

Are cowboys enough for you? Are diverse characters enough for you? Are awesome relationships enough for you? How about swoonworthy boys? Or a great adventure on the Oregon trail?

Can I say my work is done and leave now?

I will stay if I must, children but know that it pains me to. Or maybe it doesn’t. I just like being dramatic. *flips hair*

Under a Painted Sky is without a doubt a new favorite for me and it just made me ridiculously happy. I will say that it wasn’t entirely what I expected it to be but that didn’t turn out to be a bad thing. I may have been looking for a grander adventure but what I got, was in a way, better. I got to see wonderful relationships develop and I got to see these wonderful characters develop.

This book is told from the point of view of Samantha, the daughter of a Chinese immigrant who was brought over to The States at a young age by a French missionary. Samantha is used to be shunned by the people she is surrounded by. She is used to being gawked at like she is some sort of exotic animal. But she has always had her father so when he dies, she is left all on her own to deal with her feelings of loss and guilt and she is left to grow into herself and become a young woman that we all come to love.

Samantha is not badass but what she is, is strong. She may not know how to survive in the wild but she is smart and she can handle herself once she adjusts to things. It’s what I love about her. Her determination and strength make me want to cheer her on. She is such a smarty pantsy too and I love how it’s never obnoxious, just endearing when she says something no one else in her group understands.

We also have wonderful characters like Andy, Peety, West and Cay. You don’t actually know this but I took a 10 minute break to go re-read one of my favorite scenes from the book and I feel like I should apologize for this but I won’t. All of these characters add SO MUCH to the book. They are what also helps the book come to life. Without them, the book would never be the same. I would LOVE to go into more detail about them but I would be sitting here forever. Suffice to say they are all interesting and fabulous and smart and courageous and really just great people you would want watching your back.

There are two romances in the book (for both the girls) and while I preferred one love interest to another, both guys are just so SWOON WORTHY. They are different from each other in many ways but when it comes down to it, they are kind and sweet and really do care for the girls.

This all leads to the only thing in the book I would say I wasn’t a 100% on board with. It’s the actual journey they take. It was so much fun to read about and I did end up wanting more. I felt like the book focused more on the characters than it did on really building the setting and focusing on the hardships of the journey. That isn’t to say these things weren’t present at all, they definitely were and what we did get was FANTASTIC but I adore my survival/adventure books and wish that aspect of the book was a little bit more highlighted.

Otherwise, this is a great book that touches on many important themes of friendship, racism, grief and finding oneself.

I believe that this novel is a must read and I won’t hesitate to push it at you.  READ IT.

Rating Report
Overall: 4.4
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Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).


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  1. says

    I’m glad that you loved this one! I did, too. Samantha and Andy’s friendship made this book really wonderful for me. I totally agree with you about wanting *more* of their adventures on the Oregon Trail – when the book (suddenly) ended, I couldn’t believe it, and was like, “Wait, but they’re not there yet! Isn’t there more story?” And alas, there was not. For my part, I could have also done with slightly less focus on the romances – I think that would have freed time up for other stories / other things to happen in the book.

    But I really did love this book. It’s fantastic! and I’m looking forward to reading whatever Stacey Lee writes in the future. Definitely adding her to my list of authors to watch.
    Layla A recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: A Ring of Endless LightMy Profile

  2. says

    I completely agree with this review 110% Rashika. :) I was amazed at how in 330+ pages Stacey Lee was able to explore racism, grief, love and friendship all in such incredible depth while still managing to have a fair bit of action sequences thrown in too. So glad you liked this as much as I did and, as always, fabulous review and thanks for sharing! ♥
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  3. says

    Wow, everyone seems to love this novel, I’ve read nothing but praise for this novel – I like the sound of the male interests, going to bump this up on my TBR soon! The friendship aspect sounds like a strong component of this novel as well. I might bump this one up on my TBR – hoping to read over the next two days or so, I think I just might like this one. Beautiful review.
    Benish recently posted…World After by Susan Ee Review♥My Profile

  4. says

    Well someone obviously loves this book :P
    It was actually already on my radar because of the cover (so pretty), but now it definitely seems like a book I’m going to have to get my hands of asap!
    Also, not gonna lie, you may or may not have already had me at “cowboys” XD
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  5. says

    This book <33

    Swear I could marry it. LOL, I just really loved it okay and it's clear you did from this review. Your love of the book really shined here.

    This story really is based on the characters more than anything and I'm so glad you fell in the love with them as I did. The diversity in this one and the interwoven culture with the characters was done amazingly. AND YES, THE COWBOYS <33 Such love for them, they really brought the humor to the story and made me smile during the more dark times. Andy and Sammy's friendship was also a high selling point for me and I was so glad the romance never overshadowed it. I also love the fact you brought up Samantha's "smarty pantsy" side, something I never really thought of before. It certainly is endearing (:

    I hope a lot of people read this review so they can experience this amazing story AND FLAIL TOGETHER WITH US BECAUSE OH MY UNDER A PAINTED SKY IS DEFINITELY ONE OF MY 2015 FAVORITES.

    Amazing review Rashika <33
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  6. says

    Wow, what a wonderful review Rashika :) I’m definitely adding this book to my TBR now, it sounds like just the type of story I would love. Great to hear you enjoyed it, I hope to read it soon (at least so I can see it IRL with that beautiful cover). Thanks for sharing :)
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  7. says

    ERMAGERD SAMANTHA IS CHINESE?!?! Sign me right up! I really want to see more YA authors coming out with Chinese characters. The Chinese make up so much of America I don’t understand why no one dares to write about us. Samatha sounds like a smart little lady and I feel sad about the way she’s treated by others. But I’m glad that she has learnt to be strong because of it. :D
    Joy @ Thoughts By J recently posted…Book Review: Conjured by Sarah Beth DurstMy Profile

  8. says

    Amazing review, Rashika. I really, really enjoyed this entire thing, and your honestly and utter love for this book is contagious. I liked your review so much that, though I know practically nothing about the plot of the book, I’m going to add it to my tbr. BECAUSE OF YOU. I can only hope I’ll love it HALF as much as you, because you do make it sound mighty awesome. This here is reviewing done very well. Xx
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  9. says

    RASHIKA I WILL ALWAYS ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOU. And plus I’ve also wanted this novel since FOREVER. I’m kind of sad to see that the actual adventure of the Oregon trail takes a back seat in this one, BUT THEN AGAIN I’M GLAD THAT character development takes it’s place instead.

    Valerie recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #26My Profile

  10. says

    I actually mistook this book for the typical romance and shelved it off as one not for me. I think I am very wrong here xD I love the idea of her being a Chinese immigrant to the states and brought by a French Missionary. I am a HUGE fan of culture and mixes of culture, so that aspect of things has me intrigued. And this seems like a beautiful kind of romance and adventure, so you have me adding this to my TBR!
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  11. says

    YOU ARE SO MISLEADING LOL I thought for a moment you didn’t like this book!
    You are a precious cupcake, and you actually totally bought me with the cowboy, adventure, Oregon trail, swoony line. So… technically, you COULD’VE left it at that lol
    To lurve smarty-pants characters, so Samantha sounds up my alley as well! (Plus, the whole daughter of a Chinese immigrant sounds super interesting!)

    In conclusion: Adding to my TBR. Like it’s not already 10000 books long. Thanks Rashika! ;)
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