Book Reviews

Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

The Rick Riordan imprint is one that I am consistently in love with. I adored Aru Shah and Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is no different. Tristan is a story about bravery, grief, and believing in yourself.


Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal.

Tristan chases after it-–is that a doll?-–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world.

Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is an action packed story that tackles grief, guilt, and the power of stories. The story feels like it’s talking to you. What better way to handle a book where the telling of stories is a magic in and of itself. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky takes oral storytelling and creating a world based on the stories we hear at nighttime. The stories that make the shadows seem scary and gives you hope in the darkness.

Tristan Strong

Tristan struggles with not only the grief over the loss of his best friend, but also the guilt that comes with it. Not only that, but Tristan also struggles with the expectations of his family to be a successful boxer, especially growing up in the footsteps of his family. In many ways, Tristan feels direction-less. He feels torn between what people want and what he wants. Who is Tristan Strong?

Taking place in a world where all the stories we grew up with are true, Tristan is plunged headfirst, quite literally, into an unfamiliar world. It’s one thing to imagine the stories as real and another to be immersed in the jungles fighting off magical creatures alongside the stories of your childhood. Because of that, the world building in Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is magical. But even more than that, I fell in love with Tristan.


Tackling with grief, Tristan has to work out how it doesn’t work to never speak about our pain. We have to give it a voice, to work through it, to acknowledge its existence. That even when we’ve been beaten down, are bruised from the fight, we can’t give up and have to get back up again. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is also a story about finding new friends, seeing more than just ourselves, and finding our own strength. It’s a book about the power of telling stories and their own power – how they’re pieces of another world, magic on ordinary nights.

Find Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite bedtime story?

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.