- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: HarperTeen (March 5, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060297948
- ISBN-13: 978-0060297947
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #648,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Flowers in the Sky Hardcover – March 5, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-This story of family secrets, friendships, and a love of nature is a compelling read. Fifteen-year-old Nina's life in the Dominican Republic suits her just fine. Despite being poor, Nina has her garden, school, friends, and a mother with whom she is very close. But when Mami catches her flirting with an older boy, she is sent to live with her brother in New York City. Mami insists that going to New York will give her daughter a better life and pays for a false passport. Once in the city, Nina discovers that her brother is involved in something illegal and that he has lost interest in gardening, a passion that they once shared, even though he buys her orchids to raise on the fire escape. She realizes how hard he struggles to make enough money to send back to their mother. When she meets handsome Luis, her brother demands that she stop seeing him, but she disobeys. Nina is a strong heroine, and Joseph does an exceptional job of portraying flawed but sympathetic characters. The descriptions of life in the Dominican Republic and New York City provide interesting and realistic contrasts and show how immigrants keep much of their culture in a new environment as a matter of survival. This title fills a need for Latino literature, but it also tells a universal story with touches of mystery and romance.-Janet Hilbun, Texas Women's University, Denton, TXα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Fifteen-year-old Nina wants to stay in her island home in Samana, Dominican Republic, tending her lush garden and selling flowers, but her mother is convinced she will have a brighter future in New York and maybe marry a rich man. One illegally obtained visa later, Nina is moving into her older brother Darrio’s sparse Washington Heights apartment. Nina finds her new neighborhood to be as hard and colorless as the concrete surrounding it, full of tawdry women and dangerous men—and Darrio is hardly the tender brother she remembers from 10 years ago. Nina eventually makes friends, including falling for a young barber, but she is increasingly worried about Darrio’s mysterious “business” dealings. Though this coming-of-age tale doesn’t have much plot, Nina shows real strength of character by creating her own happiness despite crippling homesickness and culture shock (“Just know you are here and look to see what there is to do right in front of you, instead of missing what you cannot do back home”). Joseph’s expressive language and perceptive characterizations elevate this introspective tale. Grades 7-10. --Krista Hutley
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When her mother catches her flirting, she is uprooted from everything she knows and sent to live with her brother in New York. Life in Washington Heights is very different from the Dominican Republic, and Nina is very unhappy. She misses her garden, her friends and the cool island breezes.
When she meets 18-year-old Luis at the barbershop, a rumored drug dealer, she finds herself dangerously attracted to him. Darrio is not pleased, but Nina comes alive when they’re together. Her happiness is marred when she discovers a secret about Darrio that has her feeling worried about their future. It’s only a matter of time before the life she’s managed to construct for herself comes crashing down, and someone will have to be there to pick up the pieces and help Nina’s life to blossom once more.
“Flowers in the sky” is a look at the immigrant life of Dominicans who came to the United States hoping to create a new life for themselves. Their fears, hopes and dreams are shared with its readers, aged 12-16, in the hopes they’ll understand what immigrants go through to be reinvented in a new country. Joseph reveals the bright, and dark, sides of life for these new Dominican immigrants.
What struck me most as I settled into a leisurely read of Flowers Flowers in the Sky is how in many ways Nina’s story felt like mine, because years ago I too reluctantly left my family and home to change my life. Nina didn’t want to leave her flowers or the nearby sea. Nor did she want to say goodbye to walks with her Mami, during which cool breezes blew over her skin and she sipped on a soda. If Nina left, she’d miss the joys of singing along to the songs floating from the stereo speakers of parked cars. Fantastic tales of trips to the capital or a cousin who won the lottery were also part of her weekend highlights. Life in the Dominican Republic was good. And then she moved to New York, where she faced crowded and sweaty subway stations, humid air, and sidewalks that smelled of burnt tar. Buses rushed by, not stopping to pick up late passengers who then proceeded to swear. Nina felt burdened by fear and regret, wanting only to return home.
Yet Nina didn’t leave. After all, her mother felt that life in New York would give Nina more opportunities, good schools, and a rich prince. Nina’s brother tried to help her feel more settled by bringing her flowers that she could grow on their apartment balcony. Yet try as she might, Nina continued to feel torn between her old life and her new life. She held many conversations with an older lady friend about how to fit into this awful new place, how to embrace change without letting go of her former life, and why she should even let go of what she loved. The longer Nina stayed, the more independent she grew. Nina even started to assert herself with her brother, demanding that he help her with housework and defying him with her choices of boys. Her brother wasn’t always sure how to handle this new sister, but in reality he had himself changed before she came to live with him. And here arises the darker and grittier side of being a stranger in an alien country. The longer she stayed in New York, the more Nina worried about losing her true self. Her brother might already have lost his way.
Part of Nina’s new life involved a love triangle, which only partly works for me. One of her options is a fellow student who wants to date her, but Nina likes him only as a friend. Her other option is a local barber named Luis who is handsome, rich, and mysterious with a troubled past. He sweeps Nina off her feet, while acting as a protector against her bullies and sending her expensive gifts. Combine this with her brother’s dislike of Luis and his role feels cliché. I enjoyed the moments when they shared casual conversations, but not so much those when he acted evasive or when the two become romantic.
Flowers in the Sky marks the welcome return of Lynn Joseph to writing after a ten-year absence. Despite its minor flaws, I highly enjoyed Flowers in the Sky. Like Nina, I missed my family greatly after leaving home. Moreover, I felt miserable in my new location, which consisted of so much pavement and noise. Yet also like Nina, I discovered the richness that change can bring. Flowers in the Sky should be a welcome title to multicultural shelves, while also telling a charming and universal story.