Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee ~ Review

My Review:
A rolicking adventure set against the backdrop of the American Frontier, filled with humor, friendship and love.

Samantha Young dreams of being a musician in New York, and working in a conservatory, not an easy feat for a Chinese-American young woman. But after her father's dry goods store burns to the ground, killing her father, she narrowly escapes an assault and sets her sights on the western skyline along with her newfound friend Annamae in tow as they race towards freedom. Nothing sticks out more on the trail west than an asian girl and a black girl all by themselves, so they cut their hair and disguise themselves as boys, Sammy and Andy.

Annamae is looking to meet up with her older brother, while Samantha is hoping to catch up to an old friend who is further along up the trail. Along they meet a band of cowboys, who help them on their way.

Samantha is a clever, quick thinking young woman, who makes her way in the shadow of injustice and hardship. I especially enjoyed her dry wit, and astute way of sizing people up, drawing from zodiac lore in describing characters and their personalities.  I love how she recalls advice given her by her family and friends, with a mixture of Chinese proverbs and Scripture as well. Samantha has a gift for music, and the violin speaks to her as another avenue to express herself. I loved her friendship with Annamae, they are opposites in many ways, yet have intersecting goals to escape, yet their strengths and weaknesses compliment each other, as they both grow along their journey.

Annamae is a little older than Samantha, she has grit and determination. She has never ridden a horse before their adventure, but bravely faces her fears head on. I also admired her strong faith and how she encourages others.

The cowboys are just as colorful in character, especially the skirt chaser Cay who will flirt with just about any girl he can find. West is more reserved, yet more observant, coming from a troubled past. While Peety lives and breathes horses, they are his treasured friends and he treats his animals like family.

Overall, a entertaining, humorous adventure, with a strong, quirky heroine, dangerous situations, yet a poignant coming of age tale about family and friendship. I laughed out loud multiple times, held my breath in suspense on the edge of my chair, and even to tears. I didn't want this book to end. Highly recommend this incredibly engaging and unforgettable debut from Stacey Lee.

Content: Some swearing, attempted rape, murder, singing naked, a young man is abused verbally and physically by his father, unmarried couples sleep together. Nothing was described in explicit detail.

Books reviewed are checked out from my local library or purchased with my own money, unless otherwise noted.

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