Author: Robbie Couch
Publication date: April 6, 2021
Genre: YA contemporary
My rating: 3/5 stars
Cute, diverse, and full of both the best and the worst of small-town life, The Sky Blues is an ode to friendship, young love, and the importance of being yourself. While I wouldn’t call it a perfect read, it is a fast, fun read that will certainly appeal to younger YA fans, especially fans of “leaked romantic feelings” stories like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Stick with this post past the review, and you’ll find info on how you could win a copy of this book for yourself!
Sky’s small town turns absolutely claustrophobic when his secret promposal plans get leaked to the entire school in this witty, heartfelt, and ultimately hopeful debut novel for fans of What if it’s Us? and I Wish You All the Best.
Sky Baker may be openly gay, but in his small, insular town, making sure he was invisible has always been easier than being himself. Determined not to let anything ruin his senior year, Sky decides to make a splash at his high school’s annual beach bum party by asking his crush, Ali, to prom—and he has thirty days to do it.
What better way to start living loud and proud than by pulling off the gayest promposal Rock Ledge, Michigan, has ever seen?
Then, Sky’s plans are leaked by an anonymous hacker in a deeply homophobic e-blast that quickly goes viral. He’s fully prepared to drop out and skip town altogether—until his classmates give him a reason to fight back by turning his thirty-day promposal countdown into a school-wide hunt to expose the e-blast perpetrator. But what happens at the end of the thirty days? Will Sky get to keep his hard-won visibility? Or will his small-town blues stop him from being his true self?
Sound good? You can purchase a copy of the book HERE!
I’m not going to put in any lengthy preamble here–let’s just dive in!
One of the strongest points of this book was its emphasis on friendship. Sky’s relationships with his best friends Bree and Marshall were vibrant, full of the banter and intuitive understanding that comes from a lifetime of being buddies. The trio are always supportive (if occasionally jealous–hey, no friendship is perfect!) and will stop at nothing to help each other out. Even though the book is pitched as a romance, there honestly isn’t too much of that; it’s more about all the other relationships, especially the idea of a chosen family and the importance of fighting to maintain your friendships.
Unfortunately, this friendship emphasis was also a bit of a drawback. There were SO MANY side characters in this book, and most of them felt very two-dimensional, with not a ton of development aside from their direct relevance to the plot. This applied doubly to the adult characters in the book, who were practically caricatures of adult personalities: either the super homophobic parents or the wholesome, ultra-supportive parent-figures, with not much in between.
But back to the positives! The diversity in this story was excellent. There were racially diverse characters (Marshall is Black, Ali is Middle Eastern or South Asian [not ever explicitly stated which, to my recollection]), diverse queer rep (including a trans side character and a gay adult couple), and even an autistic side character.
The writing style here is one that I think will garner mixed feelings from readers–while it didn’t quite work for me, I think other readers will love it. Sky’s narration is very, very “teenage,” super casual and full of intense feelings and cheesy descriptions. Being able to nail a teenage voice is obviously great for YA; to me, though, it felt a bit like it was trying too hard, especially with how many random pop culture references it dropped in (heck, they even mentioned Left Shark, which was quite a throwback). Again, though, your mileage may vary, and I think the points that felt a little “extra” to me might be really enjoyable for others, especially younger YA fans or people who enjoy reading, for example, fanfiction.
There’s one more poignant element of the story that I feel like the blurb doesn’t mention at all. Early on, we learn that Sky’s dad died in a car crash when Sky was a kid, and the crash left Sky with a large burn scar on his chest. The fallout from these childhood events continues to reverberate throughout the story, both through Sky’s body image issues regarding the scar, and through the drastic effects his father’s death had on his family as a whole. These elements really helped lend extra emotional depth to the story and round out Sky’s character. I do wish that the ending of the book had allowed a little more time to fully wrap up these narrative threads, though; it felt like it didn’t give them the full resolution they needed, and I wanted something a little less vague and a little more satisfying.
One final quibble I had was with the characters in the book starting up a club called GLOW: Gay, Lesbian, Or Whatever. While I get that the point is to make sure the acronym is inclusive, “or whatever” feels very dismissive to all identities that aren’t gay or lesbian and honestly comes off as pretty exclusionist. And, considering that the character who proposes starting this group is trans, it rubbed me the wrong way even more. Obviously, different people are comfortable with different labels, but for me (as someone who’s ace and thus already has to deal with a lot of exclusionist rhetoric), it was super uncomfy.
All in all, The Sky Blues is a story riddled with teenage anxiety, but ultimately full of hope. It will resonate well with queer teens who are still trying to find out how to fit in–and who have yet to realize that, really, they don’t have to.
Trigger/content warnings: homophobia, Islamophobia, use of the f-slur and the r-slur (both challenged), reference to Hogwarts/Harry Potter
About the Author
Robbie Couch is the author of the young adult romantic-comedy novel, The Sky Blues. His work has been published in HuffPost, Upworthy, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other outlets. Originally from small-town Michigan, Robbie now lives in Los Angeles, where he remains in constant fear of aggressive birds and on the prowl for his next bowl of noodles.
Ah, yes, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Up for grabs we have ONE (1) physical copy and ONE (1) digital copy of The Sky Blues by Robbie Couch! This giveaway will be open from April 5th to April 12th at 11:59 PM CST. The digital copy will be available to INTL only, and the physical copy will be available to US only.
To enter, click HERE.
Best of luck!
Thank you to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and Turn the Page Tours for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley as part of my participation in this tour! All opinions are my own.