Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
Published by Salaam Reads on February 5, 2019
Genres: Historical, Young Adult Fiction
Format: eBook (288 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
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.
A trip to the movies after school turns into a nightmare when the city erupts into violent race riots between the Chinese and the Malay. When gangsters come into the theater and hold movie-goers hostage, Mel, a Malay, is saved by a Chinese woman, but has to leave her best friend behind to die.
On their journey through town, Mel sees for herself the devastation caused by the riots. In her village, a neighbor tells her that her mother, a nurse, was called in to help with the many bodies piling up at the hospital. Mel must survive on her own, with the help of a few kind strangers, until she finds her mother. But the djinn in her mind threatens her ability to cope.
Proceed With Caution:
The author includes the following content warnings: graphic violence, death, racism, OCD, and anxiety triggers.
The Weight of Our Sky is narrated by sixteen-year-old Melati, a Malay girl living in Malaysia with her mother in 1969. What was suppose to be a normal afternoon at the cinema with her best friend quickly turned deadly as the race riots began. Mel has to find her way home, but she also has to keep her OCD at bay in order to focus on surviving.
I was immediately pulled in by Mel’s narrative. I haven’t read many books featuring characters with OCD, so I was eager to pick this one up. Especially since Mel describes her compulsions as a djinn in her head. Neighbor’s and family believe she’s cursed rather than struggling with a mental disorder. I identified with her so hard, since I also struggling some of her same obsessions and compulsions. Particularly obsessing over a loved ones possible death if we don’t do things right.
I will admit that I didn’t know anything about the racial tension and wars that had went on in Malaysia. The Weight of Our Sky was my introduction to these devastating events and I can’t even imagine having to live through something like this. Mel is so young and having to run through burning streets to find shelter with a neighbor. Then she starts volunteering with the Red Cross as she tries to make her way back home to find her mother. All of this after watching her best friend get murdered for being the wrong race. It’s all sickening.
The Weight of Our Sky is a heavy read. I’m not sure how else to describe it. The political situation Mel is living through is horrific. She’s struggling really hard with OCD on top of it all. There is a…well, I can’t say “happy ending” but Mel is in a better place at the end, so it’s not all tragedy. I was a little disappointed with how her OCD was handled at the end, like it just magically disappeared and she can now has control over the Djinn. That’s not how it works. Overall, it was a great read though.