Review: The Waiting Sky

Author: Lara Zielin
  • Published: August 2, 2012
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
  • Reading Level: Young Adult
  • Pages: 224 pages (hardcover)
  • Source: Library

 One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane's life for the better

Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can't quite admit her mother's alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane's best friend.

Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty--is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture.

~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

If I had to describe this book in one word it would be powerful. Zielin's writing left me breathless as I experienced the chaos of living with an alcoholic through Jane and the ripples it causes through an entire family. This heartbreaking yet wonderful read is not one to miss if you are in the mood for something slightly heavier, though quick and easy to get through.

I have to say that, hands down, my favorite aspect of this story was the tornado chasing. I live in New Jersey, tornadoes don't touch down here, but the idea of chasing them is fascinating. I learned a lot about tornadoes through this novel and was able to experience exhilaration while the Torbros were on the chase. I felt as if I was in the car right alongside them, braving the elements to gain knowledge of the weather that could hopefully save more lives in the future. It's truly fascinating and I'd recommend reading the book just because of that.

But the other strong element of this novel is alcoholism. Jane and Ethan's mother is an alcoholic who steals money and is a compulsive liar. She plays with Jane's head and uses her to clean up all her messes. Jane finally realizes that she can't always be there for her mother after she almost kills Jane and her best friend, Cat, when she drives them around drunk. Jane leaves to Oklahoma to chase tornadoes with her 23-year-old brother Ethan to get her bearings straight, and begins a journey of self-discovery.

The characterization in this novel is strong. I sort of despised Jane's mother because she seemed insensitive, desperate, and manipulative. In the end, I suppose that's what an addiction does to you. Jane begins the story weak and slowly becomes strong. She doesn't want to admit that her mother has a problem and that she helps fuel it, even if by accident. Ethan's a strong character with a scientific mind. He left his mother knowing she wouldn't get better and he regrets everyday only because he wasn't able to save Jane sooner. The Torbros are all beyond interesting and wonderful. Whether it's Mason speaking like a pirate, Stephen growing out a beard, Hallie driving like a maniac or Victor being his sour self, you will begin to love them all. Even Victor, who was almost set up to be the bad guy of the bunch but served as a gateway for Jane to realize how much she truly is enabling her mother and needs to let go. Cat is truly trying to be a best friend, but I got sick of how much she threatened Jane not to be her friend if she didn't do something about her mother. She put a lot of pressure on a girl who just wanted to get by from day to day.

Lastly, there's the love interest: Max. Max is the intern for the rival tornado chasing team, Twister Blisters. They are so big that they are followed around by a television cameras. When the two of them meet, they hit it off instantly, but their romance is more or less a sub-plot. It's not essential to the plot, it's cute and done well, and it progresses at a slow gradual rate. Jane's story focuses on her journey to self-discovery and helping her mother, not her romance with Max, though it does present a welcome side-story that is greatly enjoyable. After all, he will willing risk his life for her. That's an amazing kind of love.
Jane's big breakthrough near the end of the story was a little sudden, though I enjoyed it and understood its significance. She closed one chapter of her life to open another with a new sort of chaos. And she discovered those who really cared about her in the process...her mother not being one of them.

Overall, this story really tugged at my heartstrings. I was able to fly through it because it was so short, but it's got a lot going on in its short pages. I never once felt bored or jipped from details. It flowed effortlessly and tackled a serious topic while throwing in the intriguing twist of tornado chasing. We watched several characters struggle and come to terms with themselves and I think Jane's story could be considered inspirational. 4 stars to this amazing journey to self-discovery that I recommend to anyone who desires to read a slightly heavier contemporary. I think this story is unforgettable. 


I do enjoy this cover. The tornado in the jar is mesmerizing. A large portion of the book takes place while the Torbros are planning to chase storms, actually chasing storms, or Jane is realizing her life is a lot like a storm. It's significance is huge, not to mention the cover is flat out beautiful.


4 stars



  1. Wow! Great review. This is not something I would have looked twice at, but noiw you've given me pause to coonsider. I think I'll have to download a sample.

  2. I really have to read this book. It really appealed to me.

  3. If I were to read this book, it would be with a very critical eye. The story is something that I would either love or hate on a whole different level than anything I have read before. It is a subject matter that is very sensitive for me, and I don't think I could help it. However, with the reviews that I have read for it, it may very well be a book that would turn into something incredibly special for me, too! I don't know. Books like these, essentially ISSUE books, are tough to read regardless, but when there is something personal about them it makes it a very interesting situation, to say the least. Definitely a case of "To Read, or Not to Read!" I 100% love your review, so thank you!