Monday, October 21, 2019

Book Review: 'Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky' by Stephen Parolini

Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky by Stephen Parolini

‘Dissonance is a dark energy’

Colorado author Stephen Parolini works as a freelance editor and has written three books to date – DUCK, STOLEN THINGS and now BEAUTIFUL SKY BEAUTIFUL SKY. A master storyteller, Stephen imbues his novels with careful and intricate examinations of youths as they confront the obstacles of life – a fine way to bring to our attention a sense of history in the entire spectrum of good to evil.

One of the many wonders of this exceptionally well written novel is the mental and emotional transfer to the era of the 1980s – a time of change, disruptive thought processes that linger, unique creativity in music, art, literature and communication, together with the aspects of human relationships that not only surfaced but were also critically examined, subjects such as sexual abuse, racism, homophobia, suicide, et al.

Stephen weaves these elements into a story about young people, relating it in a fashion that recalls the idioms and expressions and modes of thinking of that time. The opening of his book suggests the tone as he introduces his main characters, David and Wendy: ‘Perfect pitch is a bitch. Wendy Howard hummed along with the music filling her boyfriend’s room as she traced her index finger over the words that David had just written in a permanent marker across the back of her history textbook. The last leg of the “h” stretched all the way to the spine. That had been her fault when she snatched it from him. Too late to save it from being defaced. “Jerk,” she’d said. Then, “What does that mean, anyway?” He shrugged and walked over to the stereo to reset the needle on the spinning disc. “Heroes,” began playing. “Again? Really?” Wendy sighed. David ignored her, picked up a pencil from his desk and started singing into it as if a microphone, mimicking his namesake to perfection…’

Inserting the plot summary aids the discussion of the merits of this novel: ’High school senior David Tinker is a failed former second-string linebacker, a wannabe rock star, a pothead, a writer, and definitely a smartass. It’s his final semester at North High and he’s beyond ready to be done with school. Wendy, his once-compliant girlfriend, expects too much of him. His ever-shrinking circle of friends is testing his patience, and his insult-slinging father is increasingly impossible to endure. And then there’s the choir director, Mr. Halston, who wields the power of graduation and isn't above a little blackmail. When David’s world suddenly spins out of control, he finds himself searching for the one thing he didn’t know he was missing: hope.’

The richly colorful manner in which Stephen embraces the music of that era as he unfolds this story is but one of the many attributes that make this such a significant novel. Extraordinary character development makes his examination of David Tinker (and all youths…) not only credible but involving, encouraging us to re-think the problems faced and reconstitute our attitudes and beliefs – all the while delivering a well-sculpted story. This is the work of a major literary figure. Highly recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.