January 15, 2013

Title: The Sky is Everywhere

Author: Jandy Nelson

Published: March 9, 2012

Publisher: Dial/Penguin Young Readers

Pages: 288

Goodreads Summary: 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.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.

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  • Christina fell in love with Nelson’s poignant expression of heartache and new love, and The Sky is Everywhere goes on her top shelf.

First let me start off by saying I first picked this up a few weeks ago, but life has been so crazy-busy that I only found time to read sentences of it here and there, never truly allowing myself to get pulled in and pulled apart all at the same time. Then last night, I woke up from a bad dream around midnight that I couldn’t shake, so I thought I’d read a few lines of The Sky is Everywhere to distract my mind just good enough so that I’d be able to drift off back to sleep. What I didn’t count on was being so wrapped up in the story that before I knew it, it was almost four in the morning and I was closing the book after having read the best ending imaginable for this novel.

This book is so much more than just a book. It’s a painted picture of grief and happiness and heartbreak and love created by Nelson with poems and words so beautiful that your heart breaks apart and is magically stitched back together in the same breath. It’s a roller coaster ride that makes your stomach drop out from under you with unexpected plunges, causes you to feel weightless and joyful when you’re tossed in the air, and suffocated under debilitating g-force that knocks the breath right out of you. My emotions were all over the place in this book because everything looked, sounded, and felt so unbelievably real that it leapt right off the page, and you’re able to get completely swept away in the tidal wave of emotions swirling inside Lennie, as well as the other characters.

“I wonder why bereaved people even bother with mourning clothes when the grief itself provides such an unmistakable wardrobe.” 

The Sky is Everywhere picks up a month after the sudden, unexpected death of Lennie’s older sister, Bailey. Everywhere around Lennie, life seems to go on without her sister, but she can’t figure out how to live in the moment, how to set aside her grief and live a life without her. To me, Lennie represented the perfect balance between being a good girl trying to make good decisions while learning to cope with life without her sister and being flawed just enough to make her human. There were times that I wanted to shake her, but mostly I just wanted to offer her a shoulder to lean on. However, she’s not the only one left to deal with this loss, and I truly fell in love with all the characters in this novel.

There’s Gram, the grandmother and surrogate mom, with her garden of Eden and green painted women who cooks ash for meals because it feels like her life is on pause and she doesn’t know how to fix Lennie or herself. There’s also Big, the uncle, with the weird, squirrel-y porn ‘stache that talks with a “God” voice, converses with trees, and smokes too much weed to dull the pain. There’s Sarah, Lennie’s best friend, with her chain-smoking, costume-wearing, feminist-loving self that idolized Bailey and doesn’t know how to help her friend navigate this type of loss, even after reading several self-help books. Lastly, but certainly not least, there is Toby. He was Bailey’s boyfriend, but in the end, we find out that he was so much more than that. He and Bails seemed to have been perfect for each other, and as secrets are revealed, I wonder if his loss wasn’t greater than all the others combined.

This is where one of the major complications of the story comes in. Lennie and Toby gravitate toward each other and a secret, confusing relationship begins. It starts out innocent enough because just being around one another doesn’t make Bailey’s loss seem so painful, they can easily empathize with the other’s sorrow. But soon, just talking doesn’t dull the suffering, and desperation to fill the growing void of Bailey’s absence causes them to stumble down a rocky path. Each feels like they have a piece of Bailey’s heart, and if they can connect on a certain level, she doesn’t feel dead. It’s like her presence- her spirit- is allowed to live through them. It’s so heartbreaking.

“I just want to be near you,” he whispers. “It’s the only time I don’t die missing her.” 

Sobs forever and ever. It split my heart wide open, and it was a crevice so deep, an ache so real, that I understood how this type of relationship was born in the first place.

Then, there’s Mr. Joe Fontaine, *bat bat bat.* He’s the easy-going, guitar-toting new guy in town that kind of effortlessly inserts himself into Lennie’s family. With his megawatt smile, feather lashes, and high-on-life attitude, he manages to become the glue that the Walkers needed to rebuild the shattered pieces of their broken life. He became the duct tape that Lennie didn’t even know she was looking for, but so desperately required to repair her broken heart. It’s so hard not to fall head-over-heels in love with this guy (and his brothers, haha). For me, his swoon-factor (and overall, much-needed dorkiness) was off the charts. Seriously, I love him. *sigh* *bat bat bat*

“He’s bent over the strings tuning his guitar with such passionate attention I almost feel I should look away but I can’t. In fact I’m full on gawking wondering what it would be like to be cool and casual and fearless and passionate and so freaking alive just like he is- and for a split second I want to play with him. I want to disturb the birds. Later as he plays and plays as all the fog burns away I think he’s right. That’s exactly it- I am crazy sad and somewhere deep inside all I want is to fly.” 

“This is it–what all the hoopla is about, what Wuthering Heights is about–it all boils down to this feeling rushing through me in this moment with Joe as our mouths refuse to part. Who knew all this time I was one kiss away from being Cathy and Juliet and Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Chatterley!?” 

In the end, Lennie realizes that it’s perfectly okay to find happiness in living after Bailey’s death. That living is the only true way to mourn Bailey’s death.

“She 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 because I will never stop loving. 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.” 

I highly recommend this book to others. It’s a lovely tale of adversity through grief and heartache and learning to live and love through the eyes of a girl lost in the world after her sister’s death. This book will forevermore be one of my favorites.

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