The Weight of Our Sky
by Hanna Alkaf
★★★✰✰  3 of 5 stars

This is a promising YA debut. While there were a few elements that stopped me from being fully ‘immersed’ by the story and its characters, first I want to praise Alkaf’s depiction of OCD.
The story follows Melati Ahmad who is a teenager in 1969 Malaysia. Melati’s father is dead and her mother works as a nurse. While Melati enjoys spending time with her best friend, listening to the Beatles, doing normal ‘teenager stuff’, in the past year or so her OCD has proven each day a constant battle. While cases of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder are dated back to the 14th century, steps to understand its symptoms and causes have only been made recently. Melati attributes her impulses and visions to an evil djinn. Alkaf doesn’t shy away from showing us just how overwhelming Melati’s compulsions and visions of death are. Alkaf presents these in a way that is supposed to rankle us, and she succeeded.
Sadly, the story and its characters seem to lack the attention paid to Melati’s OCD. Scenes of shocking violence and that should have carried a lot of emotional weight came across as being flat. More than once I hadthe impression that things were almost excessively dumbed-down. For one, I found that the characters gave an unlikely amount of exposition. A lot of what they say is solely for the benefit of an english-speaking audience unacquainted with Malaysia’s culture and its fraught history. I wish I could have learnt certain facts without such an explicit approach.
I also got the sense that Melati, as well as some of the other characters, possessed a ‘modern’ awareness that was almost incompatible with the story’s time period.
Hopefully younger readers will be able to enjoy this more than I was able.

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