- Winner — 2019 Freeman Awards, Young Adult/High School Literature
- Kirkus Reviews — Best YA of 2019
- A YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2020 selection
- A Children’s Book Council Notable Social Studies Book for 2020
- “It was fine.” – My dad
A music loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.
Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, 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.
*** CONTENT WARNINGS: Racism, on-page death, graphic violence, OCD and anxiety triggers. If you are affected by any of these things, please do consider setting the book aside until you feel more able to take them on. ***
PRAISE FOR THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY:
“This stunning debut from Malaysian author Alkaf filters Melati’s sympathetic internal narrative through a mental illness barely understood and poorly treated for the era, and the setting and secondary characters convey a visceral, nerve-wracking moment in time. This isn’t an easy story by far; an author’s note warns of ‘graphic violence, death, racism, OCD, and anxiety triggers’—but their inclusion makes it no less essential, no less unforgettable.” (Publishers Weekly – starred review)
“Melati’s growing strength gives hope to readers: If she can fight her inner demon and save the day, then they can, too.” (Booklist)
“This is a brutally honest, no-holds-barred reimagining of the time: The evocative voice transports readers to 1960s Malaysia, and the brisk pace is enthralling. Above all, the raw emotion splashed across the pages will resonate deeply, no matter one’s race or religion. Unabashedly rooted in the author’s homeland and confronting timely topics and challenging themes, this book has broad appeal for teen readers.” (Kirkus Reviews – starred review)
“At the sentence level, Alkaf’s use of first-person narration expertly (and, in some cases, painfully) places readers inside Melati’s head as she experiences internal and external horrors….Echoing contemporary race relations, the subject feels especially relevant. VERDICT Alkaf’s immersive, powerful writing make this a must-purchase for all YA collections.” (School Library Journal – starred review)
“Alkaf’s succinct prose, peppered with unflinching details, is captivating, in this candid and open young adult novel.” (Shelf Awareness – starred review)
AVAILABLE NOW FROM SALAAM READS/SIMON & SCHUSTER!
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- Looking for more? You can find more of my work here!
The Malay translation, DI SITU LANGIT DIJUNJUNG, is now available from Buku Fixi and at major Malaysian bookstores!
THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY is now available as a digital comic adapted by Webtoon, with art by Malaysian artist Nisrina A.N. and colourists Nurel and Toadfrog. You can read it on the Webtoon app, or on your browser here.