The Weight of Our Sky

Hanna Alkaf

fiction historical young adult
emotional medium-paced

304 pages | first published 2019

A music loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding, “stunning” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) debut.

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

A trip to the movies after school turns into a nightmare when the city erupts into violent race riots between the Chinese and the Malay. When gangsters come into the theater and hold movie-goers hostage, Mel, a Malay, is saved by a Chinese woman, but has to leave her best friend behind to die.

On their journey through town, Mel sees for herself the devastation caused by the riots. In her village, a neighbor tells her that her mother, a nurse, was called in to help with the many bodies piling up at the hospital. Mel must survive on her own, with the help of a few kind strangers, until she finds her mother. But the djinn in her mind threatens her ability to cope.

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emotional 86%
tense 69%
dark 66%
sad 55%
challenging 41%
informative 33%
hopeful 27%
adventurous 16%
inspiring 16%
reflective 16%
mysterious 5%
funny 2%


medium 61%
fast 30%
slow 8%

Plot- or character-driven?

A mix: 54% | Character: 36% | Plot: 9%

Strong character development?

Yes: 72% | It's complicated: 21% | N/A: 3% | No: 3%

Loveable characters?

Yes: 61% | It's complicated: 32% | No: 5%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 100%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 91% | It's complicated: 2% | N/A: 2% | No: 2%

Average rating