Author Stacey Lee is a lovely individual (smart, supportive of other writers), and her debut, UNDER A PAINTED SKY is equally lovely.
Chinese-American Samantha dreams of returning to her beloved New York to study music (it's 1849): instead she's stuck in the middle of nowhere working a dry goods store with her father, who talks of moving to California. Angry and frustrated, Sammy wanders the town trying to work out her feelings, only to return home to tragedy. When the tragedy is compounded by a horrific accident, Sammy finds herself on the open road with a runaway slave, Annemarie. The two girls disguise themselves as boys and fall in with a trio of cowboys also headed west.
While the bulk of the story is about their adventures on the open road, this is really a wonderful story about friendship and the indomitable human spirit. Sammy has a wonderful voice, and though the plot is quite exciting at times, it was really the story of her unfolding friendship with Annemarie (Andy) and West that kept me reading.