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