Escape Under the Forever Sky

Book Reviews

Escape under the Forever Sky.
Yohalem, Eve (author).
Apr. 2009. 228p. Chronicle, hardcover, $16.99 (9780811866538). Grades 5-8. REVIEW. First published May 1, 2009 (Booklist).

Teens itching to read about life on another continent will relish Yohalem’s exciting debut novel set in Africa. Lucy Hoffman’s mom is the U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, so Lucy lives and attends high school in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Unfortunately, Lucy’s overprotective mother won’t let her out of the house, which means no game drives or hanging out with her friends at the local ice-cream parlor. Frustrated and resentful, Lucy and a friend sneak out of the house and head into the city. The plot quickens when Lucy is kidnapped and held for ransom. Isolated and without shoes, Lucy plans an escape using her knowledge of the African wilderness. Loosely based on a true story, Yohalem’s tale weaves together the beauty of the African wildlife with the harsh realities of a poor and unstable region. Scenes depicting Lucy’s resourcefulness are riveting, and the author’s descriptions of Ethiopian culture will pique young readers’ curiosity about life abroad. — Kimberly Garnick

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Yohalem, Eve.  Escape under the Forever Sky.  Chronicle, 2009.  218p.
ISBN 978-0-8118-6653-8         $16.99          R  Gr. 7-10

You’d think life in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa would be a dream come true for “wildlife-obsessed” thirteen-year-old Lucy, whose mother is the new American ambassador; in fact it is a source of enormous frustration, as Lucy is seldom allowed to go out, let alone to explore the African bush. While sneaking out with a friend one afternoon, Lucy is kidnapped by two Ethiopian men and a British woman, who drive her far out of the city, tie her up in a shack, and inform her that she is being held until her mother complies with their requests. Determining from her captors’ conversation that her best chance lies in escape, she breaks free and finds herself on her own in the Ethiopian countryside. Over the next three days, Lucy gets to see more of the African wild than she could have ever imagined, from sharing a tree with a colobus monkey to coming face to face with three lions to escaping an approaching warthog, all the while with her kidnappers hot on her trail. Yohalem’s novel is particularly adept at maintaining the focus on the central character and the many thoughts going through her head at any given moment; effective flashbacks [End Page 47] sprinkled throughout the present-tense narrative shine light both on Lucy’s character and her predicament. There is also an abundance of contrivance, but those willing to accept the stretches will find this to be a strong, plot-driven adventure story with a good amount of mystery thrown in to boot. The believable ending finds Lucy safe and sound at home with certain circumstances having changed, most notably her relationship with her mother and the expectations laid out for her. While this will obviously appeal to fans of survival stories, readers of straight realistic fiction may also find this an exciting diversion through unfamiliar territory. HM

Horn Book Guide:
Yohalem, Eve Escape Under the Forever Sky
   220 pp. Chronicle 2009. ISBN 978-0-8118-6653-8
(4) 4-6
The daughter of the American ambassador to Ethiopia, Lucy longs to explore the country. After she is kidnapped, Lucy turns to her knowledge of the Ethiopian landscape and wildlife to make her way home. The book is dramatic and informative, but the facts often weigh on the narrative and Lucy’s survival in the wilderness (though based on a true story) strains credibility.


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