Paz Valenzuela and Rumi Sabzwari are two teens from different worlds. Both are disillusioned by their respective lives where people seem motivated by violence and vengeance. Not much for following rules, Paz lives in Paraíso where bomb craters, charred towers, and wasteland from chemical weapons make up the landscape. Born with a birth defect because of the residual effects of bioterrorism, Paz prays for patience and strength to know that one day things will change.

Although Rumi doesn’t remember the Hot Wars which resulted in the building of Upper City’s walls, he knows the stories. Recently back from rehabilitation after a drug overdose, Rumi is trying to adjust to his new life—one where every citizen takes pharmaceuticals that are supposed to keep them all from going crazy inside their walls, wears glasses with overlays to disguise the world’s reality, and lives in relative luxury amid spec screens, SimPlay, and swirling adverts that manipulate minds with propaganda.

When Rumi’s father returns from a trip infected with a deadly virus, Rumi decides to leave the safety of the walled city of St. Iago to journey into the unknown of Lower City’s poisoned wasteland in order to find a vaccine that might save his father.

On his journey, Rumi is captured and tortured by Las Oscuras. Some consider the group to be comprised of thieves, murderers, terrorists, and wielders of chaos. Others consider them to be revolutionaries helping to set right a world gone rotten. Paz sees them as heroes and wishes to join their ranks. As an initiation, Paz will guide Rumi, gain his trust, and steal the vaccine.

As the two learn about one another’s lives and hear their stories, a relationship begins to form—one that has them questioning previous truths. One story about a jaguar makes Rumi wonder: “As Upper City told it, the story of the jaguar was a tale of wild nature subdued; as Paz told it, it was a tale of wildness untamed. Either way, the jaguar was a symbol intended to plant seeds of fear, to make me trust the tellers of the story because I was helpless without them” (302).

In addition to the adventure story aspect, Under This Forgetful Sky by Lauren Yero provokes thought for the reader, as well. We are invited to think not only about social justice and inequity but about power.  First, Rumi’s father tells his son: “There’s a fundamental aspect of humankind that you must understand if you want to succeed in life. People can justify any action that results in something they truly want. . . . People like to be safe, Rumi. To be free from hardship. . . . People will sacrifice many things of their own volition—their liberties, their time, even their dignity—if it’s for a cause they believe in. But they will never sacrifice their comfort” (346). This idea begs for interrogation. Another topic worthy of question is this: “There are four powers in the world—the power to fear, the power to hate, the power to love, and the power to forgive. Each of these you have known, dear children. And which is the greatest?” (351)

To further enrich her writing, Yero alludes frequently to Chile as well as to the social justice advocate Victor Jara and to the 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi mystic Rumi.

  • Posted by Donna

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