Book Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky Is Everywhere

Title: The Sky Is Everywhere
Author: Jandy Nelson
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Grief
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 2010
Pages: 288
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life – and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

My Review:

Gram is worried about me. It’s not just because my sister Bailey died four weeks ago, or because my mother hasn’t contacted me in sixteen years, or even because suddenly all I can think about is sec. She is worried about me because one of her house-plants has spots.

Those are the first lines from this book. I think I fell in love with Lennie Walker on the first page. She’s grieving and confused but manages to keep a slightly sardonic tone throughout it all. Her sister – and best friend – Bailey dies without any warning and Lennie is left to try to move on without her. Her grandmother is slightly eccentric and her uncle perpetually stoned but somehow they are all trying to muddle though. When it seems like no one knows what she’s feeling, Lennie finds a kindred spirit in Toby – her sister’s boyfriend – and she knows it’s wrong but he understands what she’s feeling in a way that no one else seems to. If that wasn’t confusing enough, Lennie meets Joe, musical genius Joe… If ever Lennie needed her big sister it was now…

This book is beautiful. The writing and feeling that Jandy Nelson manages to infuse her words with is amazing to read. Lennie is a typical teenage girl who has somewhat extraordinary circumstances. Her mother dumped her sister and her on their grandmother’s doorstep when Lennie was a year old, her uncle, Big, is in love with falling in love and had been married – and divorced – numerous times. And her gram is a garden guru who goes around and prunes other people’s plants but refuses to let anyone touch her own. These are characters that I enjoyed reading about. They’re vibrant and three-dimensional in their imperfection. And that’s how I view Lennie too. She’s heartbroken and makes mistakes. Her behaviour regarding her romantic life may be somewhat unconventional and I can see why other readers may have a problem with it but to me, Lennie’s actions are what I would expect of someone who is human and hurting. Not always logical but what I admire about Lennie is that she does take responsibility for what she’s done.

One of my favourite things about this book was the character of Joe Fontaine. He’s so enthusiastic and in the moment that it’s hard not to fall a little in love with him. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his happiness is palpable – as is his heartbreak. Nelson describes his smile as if the way it makes Lennie feel like it’s a physical sunbeam. It’s kind of incredible. He contrasts nicely against Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby – who is slightly damaged but well-meaning.

Another highlight of this book for me was the little notes and poems that Lennie writes. She leaves her mark wherever she goes leaving little notes and thoughts on leaves, flyers – anything she can get her hands and a pen on. I thought it was a beautiful way for her to be able to have a conversation with her sister when talking was no longer option. The is one that Lennie writes about grief being a house that really made me feel for Lennie. Her guerrilla poetry was a great way to give Lennie’s relationship with Bailey a voice without Bailey saying a word.

This book is definitely one I recommend for fans of heartfelt and touching young adult literature. It’s moving and beautiful with character that made me laugh and broke my heart. I loved reading it and it makes my list of top five YA books I’ve ever read. Five stars!

Thanks to The Reading Room for the review copy

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay

Title: If I Stay (If I Stay #1)
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: Realistic Fiction, contemporary, Young Adult
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: April 2009
Pages: 272
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel. I open my eyes wide now. I sit up as much as I can. And I listen. Stay, he says.

Everybody has to make choices. Some might break you. For seventeen-year-old Mia, surrounded by a wonderful family, friends and a gorgeous boyfriend decisions might seem tough, but they’re all about a future full of music and love, a future that’s brimming with hope.

But life can change in an instant.

A cold February morning …a snowy road …and suddenly all of Mia’s choices are gone. Except one. As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.

Gripping, heart-rending and ultimately life-affirming, If I Stay will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve lost – and all that might be.

My Review:

After a car accident leaves Mia in a coma, she starts to think about what life holds for her. Her parents are gone and some of the choices she has to make seem to be just too hard to even think about considering. But as the machines keep her body alive, her spirit walks the halls of the hospital seeing the people she loves and reminiscing about days gone past. With college looming and having decide between the love she has for music and the boy who holds her heart, Mia needs to decide. If she goes she can be with her family… but if she stays? Well that remains a mystery.

This is one of those devastating stories about loss and love. And I adored the way love was portrayed in this novel. Not necessarily the love between main character Mia and her boyfriend Adam but the love between families. Mia’s parents were shown though flashbacks to be supportive and generous in the way they felt about each other and their children. Their passion for music and life was infectious. Despite these characters not being present in the present tense, reading their interactions through Mia’s memories were one of my favourite parts of the book. Like wise the love shown between friends – like Kim and Willow.

I found it hard to engage with Mia – but considering she was disconnected from the world I’m not surprised that I was disconnected from her. Even though her flashbacks I found her to be a little standoffish and lacking the vibrant energy in which she describes her family and friends as having. That said, her narration does deliver a well-rounded and full picture into her life and her music. Her relationship with music and love was beautifully written and I thought it was a very interesting way to look at the world.

This is a beautifully written novel about love and life. It kind of snuck up on me. I didn’t think I was into this story but I started to tear up during one of the scenes (it was the one when Gramps came in to talk to Mia) and I had to reach for the tissues. I’ve heard such great things about Gayle Forman’s books and I’m so glad that I decided to read one. I will definitely be on the look out to read more from this fantastic YA author.

Purchase the novel from:

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