Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Sky is Everywhere

by Jandy Nelson
Read: October 17-19, 2012
Published: March 9, 2010 by Dial
Source: Library Book
Category: Contemporary YA - Issue/Romance

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. (From Goodreads)

Grief is a house where no one can protect you
where the younger sister
will grow older than the older one
where the doors
no longer let you in
or out

I don't know what I can say about The Sky is Everywhere that hasn't already been said. It is beautifully written with profound statements, funny lines and gorgeous phrases. Music is also a big part of this book and it sets the mood and atmosphere for many scenes throughout the story. Both of those elements I loved. But I think what is most moving are the characters in this story, and their journey through loss and love and hope. The Sky is Everywhere deals with a lot of raw emotions - anger, confusion, grief, love, forgiveness - and I felt them hard. I continue to be amazed at this debut author's ability to capture real human emotion so well. 
How will I survive this missing?
Lennie has always been part of of a pair of sisters. It was forever and always Bailey and Lennie, until one day there was only Lennie. Bailey was the 'larger than life' one, a beautiful girl who loved center stage and was always going places. Lennie lived happily - and quietly - in her sister's shadow, although Bailey always tried to bring her forward. They lived with their Gram (and uncle Big), who took over when their mother left when they were children. Although close to their grandmother, having an absent mother strengthened the bond between the sisters. Until Bailey died suddenly and tragically leaving Lennie grief stricken, confused and without her other half. 

When the story begins Bailey has been dead for two months, but still she is a very present part of the book. I felt like I got to know and love her despite the fact that she never appears on stage, which made me in turn feel her loss acutely. I am always fascinated by books that feature characters who are gone, but still feel like a living part of the story. And who are still affecting the action and the characters - Bailey is that person. What I love especially is that this book does not contain extended flash back scenes. Scattered throughout the story are poems that Lennie has written about her relationship with and grief over Bailey. Through those notes and in other remembered details - like Bailey's favorite book, the way she wore her hair, and the orange she insisted on painting her bedroom - we get to know and love her. 

Because of the loss of her sister, Lennie no longer has a shadow to hide behind, and all of a sudden she is thrust on stage under the lights. Lennie is forced to wake up and in the process she comes to life and finds herself. Her journey through the story is difficult and uncomfortable at times, and I was more than a little angry at her at some places. But the beauty of this book is that even though there were moments that I was squirming and shouting 'NO!', I understood why she did certain things. And I think if we're honest, we all have a little of Lennie in us. 
What if as much as I fear having death as a shadow, I'm beginning to like how it quickens the pulse, not only mine, but the pulse of the whole world.
A lot of Lennie's confusion in this story centers around two very different guys. First is Toby, who was Bailey's boyfriend. He understands Lennie's grief like no one else. It makes sense that they’d be drawn to each other. But do they share anything else but their love for Bailey?
With him I’d felt like my sadness had a place to be.
Joe Fontaine is the new boy in town. He shares Lennie’s love of music. He is bright/happy/easy. Lennie’s not sure she’s supposed to be those things anymore. But she's drawn to him anyway, and he draws life out of her. 
I look up at the warmth in his face and smile at him. I think he could make me smile even while I was hanging at the gallows.
Is there a love triangle in this book? If ever there was a story that fit the description of "it's complicated," this is the book. It is always clear who the right choice is for Lennie. But she is very confused, and though it was painful to see that, I understood why the book played out the way it did. 

It's not only Lennie's emotions that I felt deeply within this story, I GOT everyone's emotions and feelings - Joe, Toby, Sarah (Lennie's best friend), Gram, Big. I could sense their pain. It all felt so real. I especially connected with Joe, and it's worth reading this book just for him. The descriptions of his smiles and those long eye lashes - Bat. Bat. Bat. - got me every time.

Despite the heavy material in The Sky is Everywhere, the story has a positive message. It is through her grief that Lennie learns the importance of living every day to the fullest, a lesson that Bailey was always trying to teach her. And finally succeeded.
My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn't go away; it becomes part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That's just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don't get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.

Love Triangle Factor: Medium 


  1. YESSSSSSS......

    Yes. LOVE this review. Love It. How could I not? It's such a beautiful tribute to this beautiful book (still my favorite read of the year.)

    I love how you totally nailed all the powerful emotions in this book. And I know Lennie pissed you off, she pissed me off too, but I love that you said that there is a little bit of Lennie in all of us. It is so true!

    I love these characters, I wish they were real so I could meet them and hang out. I love the writing, I love how quietly powerful it is. I love that this book has so much hope in it despite the grief and death.

    BRILLIANT review, Lauren. I am so glad you read and liked his book!

    1. Thanks so much, Heather! THANK YOU for another perfect recommendation. And for listening to me rant through the stressful parts. You're the best!

      Yes I felt A LOT in this book, which is always a mark of a good writer. Especially when she can make me feel things for different characters who have opposing perspectives.

      I agree, I wish I could go hear Joe and Lennie play. I bet that would be magic.

  2. Oh, Lauren..EXACTLY!! I could never get the right words down to write a review for this book but this is EXACTLY what I wanted to say! Just you describing the emotions makes me feel them again, like I read this book just yesterday instead of almost 10 months ago. I'm so happy you loved it. :) Amazing review.

    1. That's so sweet! I definitely felt so much when reading this book. I love when that happens. It's always fun to read a review of a book that you read and loved months ago and to relive it all again! I love that feeling too.

  3. Wonderful review, Lauren! I keep seeing this book everywhere but until now, I haven't felt compelled to actually pick it up. I feel as if I'm truly missing out on some fantastic characters, not to mention rich plot lines, by leaving this off my TBR Shelf, so I'm off to add it at once! Thanks! :)

    1. I think you will really like this one. I definitely encourage you to read it. I love contemporaries but I have trouble with them because they always seem so similar to each other. This one really stood out to me. I wish I'd discovered the book sooner!

  4. Fab review! I agree that this is incredible. It definitely deals with lots of emotion but manages to feel positive. I loved the use of poetry.

    1. Thanks Alison! I love both those things too! The poetry is a beautiful and essential aspect of the book - a way to really connect to Lennie's heart. And I am amazed at this author's ability to make the book positive despite the subject matter. Great points!

  5. You are so right about Bailey's presence in the book, despite being dead. I felt her as a character just as much as everyone else. Jandy Nelson is one fabulous writer!

    1. She is a great writer! As I said, I'm always fascinating when an author includes characters who are never alive during the run of the book. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is another fantastic example of this.

  6. This sounds positively amazing. I'm working my way up to read it! I have it on my shelf!

    I will probably need all kinds of pep talks to get thru it.


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