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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Gives children a glimpse of a society entirely made up of the poor and the ruling elite. Provokes thought about what could happen in America if there were no middle class.
Money does not provide happiness or survival. Human survival depends greatly on preserving the environment. Also, family and relationships are above all the most important.
Positive Role Models
The main characters in Under the Empyrean Sky are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, even if it means lashing out against their corrupt government. Although flawed, the leading three boys will do anything for one another and are great examples of friendship, loyalty, and thoughtfulness.
Violence & Scariness
People are killed during a battle with the tyrannical government. Tasers, guns, and slingshots are used as weapons. Kids and adults get into fistfights. Fight scenes are graphic and explicit; however, the most disturbing act of brutality is a father who physically abuses his son after abusing alcohol.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teen couples make out, and it's implied that they have sex.
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Language helps show the division between the upper and lower class. The Heartlanders' use of expletives reflects their lack of formal education and separates them from the upper class. Words such as "s--t," "whore," and "godsdamn" are commonly used.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A main character smokes the "weed" (which is a form of tobacco) and teens drink alcohol. Most of the adults characters binge drink the local brew, which is similar to moonshine. The alcohol abuse isn't glamorized; rather, the author shows the ugly repercussions of addiction.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Under the Empyrean Sky is a dystopian adventure about three teen boys who defy their corrupt government to survive. The first of The Heartland Trilogy, it's a thought-provoking ride with an ecological theme. It includes brutal fistfights, some strong language ("s--t," "whore," "godsdamn"), a battle where tasers, guns, and slingshots are used as weapons and people die, and one disgruntled teen boy whose love is unrequited because the government assigns marriages. Adults and teens drink alcohol and smoke tobacco, and some adults abuse alcohol. Teen couples make out, and it's implied that they have sex.
Is It Any Good?
This is a great story for those who love The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The colloquial language, thought-provoking themes, and tribulations that are frighteningly similar to modern-day issues will inspire lively discussion. Readers are drawn in emotionally as they watch innocent, likable people attempt to make sense of an unjust governing system they simply can't escape. Charming and abrasive characters mixed with funny one-liners on every page make Under the Empyrean Sky difficult to put down and leave readers eager for the second installment.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.