ARC Review: BETWEEN SEA AND SKY by Nicola Penfold (Middle Grade Monday)

I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on navy with rope, seaweed and plyons around
Genre: dystopia
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: standalone


Book cover for BETWEEN SEA AND SKY: title in white on navy with line drawing rope, sea, fish power station, people and more around

In a near future where a series of environmental disasters has left much of the country underwater, Pearl lives on a floating oyster farm with her father and younger sister, Clover. Following her mum’s death several years earlier, Pearl refuses to set foot on land, believing her illness was caused by the poisons in the ground. Meanwhile, Clover dreams of school, friends and a normal life.

Then Nat comes to spend the summer at the sea farm while his scientist mum conducts some experiments. Leaving behind the mainland, with its strict rules and regulations, he brings with him a secret. But when the sisters promise to keep his secret safe, little do they realize that they may be risking everything…

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Dystopia is a rare genre these days, though it is starting to make a comeback. After the oversaturated days of the gritty, grim concrete worlds of totalitarian dictatorships in YA where the focus was on personal liberty not environmental, BETWEEN SEA AND SKY is like a breath of fresh air.

It’s a lovely MG eco-dystopia full of hope for a better future, while the present is being kept rigid by rules and regulations. It has the feel of being both present day and near future, an idyllic sea bay that not quite able to provide enough of a refuge from the inland world.

As well as exploring eco disasters – made by man – there are other themes, such as closing borders to those in need in order to “protect the homeland and those here already.” With everything that’s been so publicly happening in politics recently, to the point that it feels almost normal, it’s so important to talk about these things. I am loving seeing them come up in books for all ages, explored in a variety of ways that calls them out.

It was really nice getting the perspectives of Pearl and Nat – one sea-dweller at home on the sea farm but suspicious of all things landlubber, and one land-dweller out of his depth but much more open. The contrast allowed for different perspectives on the plot, to see if from more than one angle – and how it affected everyone, just not in the same way. Plus, both the terror and the wonder of the sea can be shown (I am firmly with Nat on not liking boats and would not have been as brave as him in the storm!)

There are a lot of different relationships portrayed – close parent-children ones, strained parent-children, friendship, siblings (in all their very messy glory), and unofficial guardians. Plus the strain each one, particularly new ones, can have on other relationships. It felt like a very welcome change to see so many different relationships take centre stage, when often only one or two get the spotlight.

The writing reminded me of the sea, generally silky smooth, but able to become a tempest very quickly. It really helped unify the feel of the book, having the sentences mimic the water it was set around.

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