The Bookshelf, A Teen Review: Under the Same Sky by Brett Smuckler

Courtney Bowers
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“Under the Same Sky” is the story of two friends whose love is overpowered by their opposite goals in life. Olivia meets Emmett when she is in kindergarten, and they spend all of their childhood years together, playing in the backyard and going on family vacations to the beach.

Over the years, however, their beautiful friendship begins to fray at the ends. As they enter high school, their mutual attraction is undeniable, but a romantic relationship threatens the bond they have always protected. Instead, they both date other people, which succeeds in pushing them further apart.

At their senior prom, Emmett finally admits he is in love with Olivia, and they both discover they will be attending Brown University in the fall. Still, college does not provide the solution they are looking for. Emmett begins focusing on a career in politics, while Olivia decides humanitarian work is the natural choice for her. Emmett pursues a relationship with the senator’s daughter, breaking Olivia’s heart and straining their friendship that is already falling apart.

Emmett finally confesses his true feelings to Olivia, but she has already decided to work with Haitian Haven to help underprivileged children living in Haiti. The two try to keep an overseas correspondence, and Olivia asks him to assist her in finding medical treatment for a Haitian child with a heart disorder. Emmett puts all of his efforts into making Olivia’s wish a reality, and his devotion creates jealousy with his girlfriend, so Emmett is forced to end his slightly romantic relationship with Olivia once and for all.

Since Emmett is no longer in contact with Olivia, he has no idea what is happening in Haiti. When an angry militia captures Olivia and her fellow volunteers, she has no way of sending for help. As she fights to live another day, Emmett allows his own selfish ambitions to keep him from saving the girl he really loves. Will a lifelong friendship prevail over two completely different lifestyles?

I received a copy of this novel in the mail from the young author herself, Brett Smuckler, who was born and raised in Maryville, so I was excited to read a book from a local writer. “Under the Same Sky” is a story with amazing potential. Olivia and Emmett’s relationship is so genuine and relatable, and Olivia’s childhood memories seem very authentic. Smuckler’s writing is informative, detailed and skilled. I didn’t know much about Haiti or living in Massachusetts, but now I feel like I know both locations as if I had been there. However, I do wish the story has been longer, giving the author more pages to develop her characters. Some of the stages of Olivia’s life seem a bit breezed over, and her time in Haiti before the capture is very briefly described.

This story is very emotional and sad, and I feel it could have had a greater impact had I had a bit more time to get to know Olivia’s character as an adult, rather than form a picture of who she was in childhood recollections.

Nonetheless, Smuckler’s first novel is impressive and an inspiration for all young writers living in East Tennessee.

Have you read “Under the Same Sky?” Discuss your thoughts on the book at www.BlountToday.com under columnists.

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