Saturday 5 September 2020

Book Review | The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

Title: The Weight of Our Sky  
Author: Hanna Alkaf
Publication Date: 5th February 2019 by Salaam Reads
Format: Ebook via Scribd
Target Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Historical
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Melati Ahmad looks like your typical moviegoing, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

But there are things that Melati can't protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.

With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.

Trigger and content warnings: OCD, anxiety, graphic violence, on page death, and strong racism. 


My Thoughts



"Where you plant your feet is where you hold up the sky."

This book surprised me in so many ways. I was merely scrolling through Scribd looking for a quick read and clicked on this book simply because it was only around 250 pages. I knew nothing about the plot, and I couldn’t remember hearing anyone else talk about this book, but it really blew me away.

This book is set during the 1969 race riots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and follows a teenage girl, Melati, as she is separated from her mother and must make her way through a city on fire to reunite with her all the while grappling with her own demons as well.   

Hanna Alkaf’s writing is extraordinary. She captures every element of this book so well, her descriptions of Melati’s hometown and the descriptions of the destruction happening all around her are so vivid and puts you right into the middle of the action, you truly feel like you are there watching these horrific events. It’s a pretty dark book with a lot of death and violence being described but it reinforces the tragic reality of what was happening to the reader without downplaying or sugar-coating anything.

What really gripped me about this book though was how the author portrayed Melati’s anxiety and OCD. The way local folklore and mythology were incorporated into how her character manifests her mental illness was a wholly unique approach. I was fascinated by the Djinn and how Melati fought to regain control over her own mind, this isn’t a book where she’s instantly cured by the end but watching her go on her own personal journey was just as gripping as the war going on around her. 

"When there is so much broken about the world we currently live in,one cracked person is easy enough to excuse or ignore"

If you’re looking for a fast paced historical novel with a darker tone then look no further than the weight of our sky. This book perfectly balances the action of the race riots with the emotions and struggle of mental illness. Also, bonus points for The Beatles references (Melati’s a big fan) and also the complete lack of romance, so refreshing in a YA contemporary. I was captivated by Hanna Alkaf’s storytelling and I can’t wait to read whatever she puts out next.            

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