The Weight of the Sky
Publication date: May 20th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
For every important decision in her life, fifteen-year-old Chris Miller relies on silence rather than courage. In her rough Bridgeport neighborhood, Chris bites her tongue when her best friend gets sent to juvenile detention for a crime she didn’t commit. As a scholarship kid at St. Catherine’s Prep, Chris acquiesces to ‘drinkstagram ’at tony sleepover parties. At home with her overbearing mother, she swallows her questions about her father’s identity. Chris understands that quiet insecurity isn’t the most valiant approach to life, but it gets her through the day unscathed. Until she’s sexually assaulted.
In the aftermath, Chris’s tenuous happiness crumbles alongside her grades, yet she can’t find the courage to report the assault. At a crossroads, Chris is forced to volunteer at an afterschool program for low-income families to maintain her scholarship. Catapulted back to the very neighborhood she struggled to escape, Chris finds her family thrust into the crosshairs of a gang war. When one of the students from her afterschool program is put at risk, Chris discovers just how much damage her silence can cause. Ultimately, she must decide if she will remain quiet as others call the shots and remain a victim or if she can forge the strength to stand up, speak the truth and call herself a survivor.
Chris’s fingers trembled over the email icon on the cracked screen of her Samsung phone.
“It’s from St. Catherine’s. Oh my God, Lesley, I’m going to pee my pants.”
“Spelling Bee, there’s no way they didn’t accept you. Get that tremble outta your pale-ass chin.” Lesley pulled her full lips and dark eyebrows into an assured pout. “You’re the smartest freshman in the history of Bridgeport High School. All that shit about string theory you were spouting off in the hallway last week? I didn’t even know you were speaking English. I thought Mr. Idelson was going to nut himself.”
“Eww.” Chris wrinkled her nose at the thought of her ancient Biology teacher doing anything that resembled nutting himself.
“Eww.” Lesley jutted her chin in agreement. “The point is, you’re a genius. Just open it.”
Chris pushed her brown hair behind her ears and attempted to duplicate Lesley’s self-confident posture. It was true. She was smart. At public school. St. Catherine’s Prep existed in a different universe. It was, without question, the best high school in the area, possibly in the whole state of Connecticut. The campus gleamed like a bastion of perfection, nestled securely into the part of Fairfield County dominated by large, estate-style houses and private waterfront property. The girls wore charcoal grey uniform skirts and the boys wore monogrammed blue blazers. The tuition was $35,000 a year. The thought that they might accept her there on a full scholarship for tenth grade seemed as ludicrous as Hagrid the groundskeeper sweeping into her mother’s postage stamp apartment to let her know she’d been accepted to Hogwarts.
Chris took a breath and clicked on the screen with shaking fingers. She blinked as the words swam into coherent sentences in front of her.
Dear Ms. Miller,
The admissions committee at St. Catherine’s School…outstanding application…meaningful performance…blah, blah, blah… Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you of your acceptance to St. Catherine’s School for the 2020-2021 school year.
“I got in.” Chris almost choked on the words.
“Told you.” Lesley deadpanned for a beat before she let out an excited scream. The noise ricocheted over the cracked cement courtyard of the K Street Housing Project. “Maybe now your mom will get off your case about hanging out with me.”
Chris grimaced. “Maybe.” Maybe not.
Lesley shimmied into a victory dance. “We need to celebrate!” Chris could predict the next words to come out of her mouth as clearly as if Lesley were reading off a script. “Do you have ten dollars?”
This is why my mother doesn’t like you, Chris thought, smiling.
Caroline Schley is a YA author and high school science teacher. Originally from New York City, she currently lives in Madrid and will happily travel long distances for white sand beaches, high-quality chocolate and alpine hiking trails. You can find out about her current writing projects and stay in touch at carolineschley.com.