The Sky is Dead
Title : The Sky is Dead
Author : Sue Brown
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 232 pages (e-book)
Published : April 17, 2013
Danny is young, gay, and homeless. He lives in the park, preferring to avoid attention, but when thugs confront a stranger, Danny rushes to his rescue. He and the would-be victim, Harry, form a cautious friendship that deepens months later, when Harry persuades Danny to visit his home. Daring to believe he has found happiness, Danny finds his world turned upside down yet again when tragedy strikes.
Until he runs out of options, Danny won’t trust anyone. Finally he has to accept the offer of a home, and Danny becomes David, but adjusting to a new life isn’t easy. When he meets the mysterious Jack, it stirs up feelings he thought were long gone. Can David dare to allow himself to love? Or will the truth bring his new world tumbling down around him?
Right from the first sentence The Sky Is Dead had my full attention. The prologue sees us meeting David at the age of twenty-nine with his lover, Jack. When Jack asks him why, even with over eight years as a couple, he’s never mentioned his parents to Jack, we embark on an all too possible story of David’s past.
“I survived, and I can show him that. I’m not a victim and the sky isn’t dead.”
Ten years ago, David is still Danny. Sixteen, gay and homeless, having been violently thrown out of his home by a homophobic father. He had managed to stow away at his boyfriend’s house for a short while before Steve’s parents also threw him out, knowing he had nowhere else to go, because they didn’t want any trouble from their neighbours. After that he lived in a halfway house where he was regularly harassed by Peter, another resident. Although he’s the one being constantly and mercilessly provoked, after getting into fight and breaking Peter’s nose he’s told if his behaviour continues he’ll have to leave. Right on the heels of being betrayed by his boyfriend and full of anger and hurt, he’s had enough and decides to get out. “I’ve got no idea where I’m going, but no bastard is going to throw me out of my home for a second time. From now on, it’s me and only me.” Now, at eighteen, he’s homeless and been living under a bush in a park with cardboard boxes for a bed for the last couple of years.
The author gives us just enough of Danny’s daily existence to get an understanding of what his life has become and what he needs to do for survival. But even for all of his experiences, there’s always a core of strength and goodness to Danny. He helps out at the local shelter where he gets a meal doing some DIY. When he sees a kid being confronted by a couple of serious bullies, he goes against his developed instinct to be invisible and comes to the boy’s rescue. Thus starts the deep and abiding friendship of Danny and Harry.
At sixteen, Harry is cheeky and tenacious. I really liked the portrayal of Harry. The balance of the ‘I want’ of a sixteen year old to the maturity he displays developed as the victim of ongoing bullying is done perfectly. He’s sweet and funny and falls completely in love with Danny, seeing beneath the dirt and matted hair to the amazing person beneath. And he’s completely determined to make eighteen year old Danny see it, too. Although Danny’s feelings for Harry have also been growing, he’s horrified when Harry insists he wants Danny to kiss him. “So why won’t you kiss me?” He’s like a dog with a fucking bone. “Because you don’t want to kiss someone who never cleans their teeth.” It’s these things that make this story so believable. It’s not over the top, but it’s not sugar-coated or glamourising the reality of homelessness either. Although Danny isn’t uncaring, it would be impossible to not be dirty with matted hair. Instead of accepting that, Harry presents Danny with toothpaste and toothbrush. Harry really was just delightful. I loved how they brought out the naughty mischievousness in each other.
Harry wants Danny to have sex with him, but Danny refuses, partly due to Harry’s age and partly because of his past sexual encounters for money and therefore feeling like he’s not good enough for Harry was both realistically and sensitively handled. Nonetheless, their romance blooms. However, after Danny learns of his friend’s death he allows his belief that everyone leaves him anyway, to push Harry away. “I wrap myself up in the sleeping bag, ignoring how hypocritical it is to use the bag, and try to sleep. I miss the warmth and softness of the bed in the guest room. I miss my Harry.” I just wanted to hug Danny until he could see that not everyone is going to treat him like his parents and Steve did. He does end up letting down his guard anyway, and accepts Harry’s mother’s invitation to visit their home. It looks like maybe Danny may have a chance at a normal future after all. Then one day Harry doesn’t show up at the park. Then another day. And another. When Danny goes looking for him at his home, he arrives to find it empty and overhears the neighbours saying how sad it was and how they would miss Harry and his mother. The fact that everything isn’t all spelt out to Danny by some overheard random, in-depth conversation felt very real. My heart broke with the loss of Harry.
A year after the loss of Harry, we pick up with Danny just about to be released from hospital after being the victim of a mugging and sexual assault. We find out he’s suffered repeated bouts of pneumonia and lung infections thanks to his life on the streets. Another episode would likely be his last. He’s offered a unique opportunity by a nurse at the hospital to find his feet again. The questions is: will he be able to find it in himself to trust in another person again? Realising that there’s no way he’d survive another winter, he warily agrees to see how it goes. It’s around this time that Danny decides to leave his old, damaged self behind and become David, a man with a future instead of a death sentence.
I really liked that the prologue shows a David that, while still carrying the scars of his past, has overcome all that adversity to find love and happiness, before the book goes back to trace his past. It gives light to what could otherwise have been a bleak tale of woe and left hope for his future during all the dark parts. While I’m not much of a fan of present tense, it suits this story. It’s gives the words and pacing a gravity that is in keeping with the subject matter. And the words are both unwasted and beautiful. But that’s not to say there isn’t lightness. There is. There’s funny, playful moments that caused me to smile so wide my cheeks hurt. I loved the growth of Danny/David. “Tentatively, I take Jack’s hand in mine, and promptly four people beam at me. I want to crawl under a rock and hide from all the attention. But Jack holds my hand so tightly I stay where I am, trying hard to keep a smile on my face.” There are these lovely, understated moments of growth for David. He’s such an interesting, wonderful character. Despite all the adversities he’s faced, there’s such a sense of fun and mischief about him that is an integral part of who he is. Even the life he’s led since having his family turn his back on him have been unable to beat that out of him. I like that, although it’s not pushed in the reader’s face at every turn, the fact that the things that have happened to Danny have left invisible scars. He isn’t miraculously fine just because he’s no longer sleeping under a bush in the park. He felt so extremely real, and all of the secondary characters are so well developed that they felt every bit as real as Danny/David. There is sex, and it’s sweet and sexy and beautifully written, but that’s not what this story is about. It’s about Danny’s journey to becoming David and the love he finds, even though, thanks to a dark past he had no hand in creating, he thinks himself unworthy of it.
Rated 5 stars by BookSmitten