Review: The Sky Inside, Clare B. Dunkle

Martin lives in a seemingly perfect world. The suburban town in which he lives resides under a protective dome.  All children are genetically-engineered and every year a new generation is shipped out to meet their parents. Families gather every morning in front of their TVs to vote on one of any number of political issues.  A popular television game show has everyone’s interest.  A newer model of genetically-engineered children, including Martin’s younger sister Cassie, is so intelligent they are even teaching the rest of the students’ classes.  Unfortunately, Martin, who has always been a bit of a malcontent, starts becoming suspicious of his society.

First, Martin starts noticing how scared all adults are when talking to each other, as if they are frightened of saying the wrong thing.  Then he starts seeing the game show contestants seeming usually nervous.  Then a stranger has come who rounds up and takes away Martin’s younger sister Cassie, along with other perfectly engineered children of that model.   No one seems to know where the children have gone and why.  Further, everyone seems hesitant to talk about the decision to take them away.  Martin, with the help of his especially-clever new pet robot dog, decides it is up to him to leave his safe life at home to explore the outside world to find answers as to where his missing sister might be. This is quite a brave decision, as neither he nor anyone he knows has been outside of their domed town.

Throughout the story, Martin grows from a often-annoyed, lazy young teen into a brave, admirable hero.  He might not have all the resourcefulness of many Young Adult book protagonists, but he is immensely real and likeable. The futurist society author Clare Dunkle has created is very full and detailed, especially given the brevity of the book.  Also, the many functions of the pet robot dog are surprising, clever and fun.

The Sky Inside is a great book to introduce readers, particularly boys, to the dystopian-style novel.  Further, if the reader enjoys reading about conspiracy or has a natural sense of suspicion, this will be a good selection.  This is also a good book for those that like to think they know a little more about what’s going on than those around them.  Lastly, if you like this book, try reading the sequel The Walls Have Eyes

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