Title: Dear Blue Sky
Author: Mary Sullivan
ISBN: 9780399256844
Pages: 248 pages
Publisher/Date: Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, Published by The Penguin Group, c2012.
Publication Date: August 2, 2012

“Everything seems so messed up”–I took a deep breath–“since Sef decided to leave.”
“Yeah, I know.” His eyes filled. He wiped underneath them with the back of his hand. “I miss that kid.”
I’d never seen him cry before. I didn’t want to. His heavy cheeks seemed to sag, and for the first time, I noticed little gray hairs near his temples.
“What are we going to do, Dad?”
“I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.” (156)

Cassie knows that her life is nothing compared to what her older brother Sef must be going through serving as a Marine overseas in Iraq. It’s hard to cope though when Sef was the glue that held her family together. Now her parents are fighting, her younger brother isn’t talking, and her older sister is withdrawing and spending all her time with her no good boyfriend. Add to that a best friend who’s dropped Cassie for something she wasn’t responsible for, and Cassie’s only way to find relief is to literally run until she can start breathing again, something that she enjoyed doing with Sef but now must do alone. When Cassie discovers the blog Blue Sky, written by an Iraqi girl about her age, Cassie realizes that her life is nothing compared to the horrors Blue Sky encounters in a war zone. Cassie’s opinions and feelings are put to the test during this year of emotional upheaval, and she wonders what she can do to help everyone, including herself, recover.

This is a powerful book that forces readers to rediscover themselves and rethink the world. Mary Sullivan does an amazing job of putting readers in Cassie’s position. There’s a lot of family problems and drama for one book, but Cassie holds herself together surprisingly well considering the circumstances. I guess that’s what I liked about her the most is how real she comes across. There are times where she is just thoroughly overwhelmed by everything going on in her life, but she gets the support she needs from family, teachers, and classmates and strives to make her life more normal. She knows her life is a little crazy, but she sticks with her family and defends against accusations from other people. I was especially proud of how she cares for her younger brother, who has Down Syndrome and is having trouble with one of the neighborhood kids. She really takes to heart her self-imposed responsibility of taking care of the family now that her brother is away.

There have been a few books that have come out about the war in Iraq, post-September 11th, and teens dealing with a family member involved in the military in some way. Sullivan though presents it from both perspectives with the help of Blue Sky, the Iraqi blogger that Cassie strikes up an e-mail conversation with. While I understand that with the changing nature of the internet it might have been difficult to include a resource guide, I really wish she had included some of the blogs she referenced in her acknowledgements. She writes that she is forever grateful “to all the Iraqi girl bloggers brave enough to write about how the world changed their lives” and I feel like this would have been the perfect opportunity to include some of the ones she read. After a quick google search, quite a few of the blogs are defunct, and the few that are still active only provide a few rare posts each year. A few that I found include Middle East Journals and Baghdad Burning with depressing descriptions of fleeing the country several years ago, after which is stops. You’re left wondering what happened.

Besides that one quibble, I think Sullivan did an excellent job. She provides a plausible explanation for Blue Sky’s passable English skills (her father teaches English and worked as an interpreter) and she provides a glimpse into a life that is literally on the other side of the world from what we are used to in America. I hope we will never have to live through the type of warfare/conflict that has become so common overseas. Sullivan shows how the public can support the troops serving, even if they are conflicted about the war. This is a thought provoking, discussion worthy book with an eye-catching cover.

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