Living in Suspension is about Sky, an unhappy teen who despises high school. At first, I didn’t like Sky very much and felt that his problems were a direct result of his poor choices and bad attitude. He doesn’t put forth much effort academically, he skips school, his group of friends is comprised of dropouts and troublemakers, he acts like a jerk to his parents, and his overall demeanor is angry and mopey. So why the four-star rating? Because by the end of this novel I grew to understand and like this character, who happens to be the perfect portrait of an average kid who simply isn’t hardwired to succeed in a traditional classroom setting. I also enjoy Morris’ writing style. She takes her time letting you get to know her characters, and she has a way with inserting a bit of humor where you wouldn’t normally expect it.
In addition to Sky’s difficulties with succeeding in mainstream classes, Morris highlights his battles with authority, his struggles to be a good friend, and his crush on the popular neighbor girl. I should also mention that there’s a story within this story. The secondary story is a novel Sky is working on for a creative writing class–the only class he’s ever really enjoyed. This novel ends up providing clarity and hope for Sky in the end.
Even though Living in Suspension is geared toward teens, I think adults would benefit from reading it as well. As a warning to teachers who might want to use this book in the classroom (because it would be perfect for discussion related to differentiated learning environments and teen issues in general) and parents, this book contains instances of swearing and drug use. These instances added authenticity to the subject matter, and nothing was over-the-top or added simply for shock value.
A few of my favorite parts:
“Then she does this smile that seems to make the years fall away again. On warm summer nights when we used to play hide and seek, whenever she found me, she would smile just like that. But she shakes her hair the way she did before, and it’s too red, too pretty. All those years since we were friends jump back into place. She’s one of those girls who smiles at everyone.”
“I was the extra luggage my parents insisted on dragging along even though they would probably have no use for it later.”
“I don’t know why I cried, but I remember how it felt–the twisting in my stomach, the tightness in my chest. In fact, now I’m feeling it again, as if memories carry their feelings with them kind of like bad smells. You open one up, and there it is smothering you again. And they seem to work the way worm holes are supposed to work in space, carrying you on to other bad-smelling memories.”
Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.