Fifteen-year-old Samantha kills someone. She wonders if killing the man who tried to rape her counts as murder. All she knows is: it was him against her. Samantha finds herself alone after her father’s dry-goods business is destroyed and her father dies in the suspicious fire, leaving Samantha alone on the streets of St. Joseph, Missouri.
“Still the black snow fell,
bits of my life flaking down on me.”
Now the law is looking for Samantha, a young Chinese girl, who murdered the unscrupulous businessman. She escapes with another girl, Annamae, a slave to the same man. The two girls dress as boys, hide in the back of a covered wagon, and head for the Oregon Trail, hoping they can escape the reward put up for finding the two escapees. The girls refer to themselves as Sammy and Andy and must learn how to talk, walk, and act like boys.
They join up with an unlikely group of young cowboys. Sammy likes the boy called West, but of course, she must maintain the secret of being a girl, not an easy thing to do when she’s falling in love with the handsome cowboy.
“And West, with light from the campfire dancing around his face,
who will never know how much I love him.”
Sammy’s dream of becoming a musician is at risk. Her adventure heading West in 1849 is filled with hazards—outlaws who break people’s hands, that is, if they don’t kill them first, snakes, horrible diseases, and people who are quick to hang an escaped black slave or a Chinese girl accused of murder. Under a Painted Sky reveals how dangerous the frontier was during this period while at the same, portrays the awesome courage of people who struggled for a better life against all odds.
Under a Painted Sky is not your old-fashioned historical YA novel. Author, Stacey Lee, writes with turn-the-page action, genuine teen emotion, and beautiful writing at the same time. I highly recommend this book!