Review: The Sky Is Everywhere

Review: The Sky Is EverywhereThe Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Published by Dial BFYR on March 9, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Traded

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.

First Sentence: “Gram is worried about me.”

Gah! This book. I just do not know how I feel about it. In some ways, I really, really loved it, and in others I was so incredibly frustrated and annoyed by it. My emotional investment in the story makes me feel like I should throw five stars at this book, but, when I think about the plot, I feel like it just deserves three. Either way, Nelson impressed me with her unique style and unflinching look at dark subject matter.

Nelson’s writing has its own cadence, a rhythm. This book reads like poetry to me, more so than do most poems I’ve read. Her writing both held me captive and frustrated me. Part of her style includes the use of poetic license with regards to sentence structure that make seriously not poetic me crazy. However, the writing fit Lennie’s character so completely perfectly that I do not think this book could have been powerful any other way.

Speaking of Lennie, I am really torn on her. On the one hand, I totally identify with characters who feel boring and lovable,  and spend their lives comparing themselves unfavorably to others. If there’s something that captured the feelings of my teenager years, that’s definitely it. Plus, my heart ached for Lennie’s grief over her sister Bailey’s death. I really felt her pain and could sense how much was missing. This came through especially powerfully in her little notes that she left everywhere, which, I think, were a good portion of why I liked her so much.

On the other hand, though, Lennie does some unforgivable things, and, much as I want to forgive her because grief can do a number on a person, I don’t think I can. Yes, I could see how she made the decisions she did, but I feel like lots of people can get through their grief without doing that stuff. She cheats and she lies, and I really don’t feel like she deserves her happy ending, even though I sort of wanted it to come. Basically, I’m conflicted. I really just wish the plot hadn’t had to revolve so much around infidelity.

What I loved most about this book was seeing Lennie come alive, even though she did so many idiotic, awful things. Only through her sister’s death has she been able to flourish, too content with following along in her sister’s shadow until forced into independence. Bailey’s death wrought a strange change in Lennie, taking her from a girl with little interest in boys to a hormonal, horny mess of a girl. I really loved this, because it is so rare to read novels about girls with healthy sexual appetites. Usually, they’re so virginal and pure, so that made such a refreshing change.

The other characters really stole the show, though: Gram, Big, Joe, Gram’s garden. Gram and her garden reminded me a bit of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen, with the sort of magical realism to her garden. Gram is completely quirky and sassy and loving, and just the best guardian ever; Lennie and Bailey’s mom may have run off, but she still has a very present family in Gram and Big.

Oh, Joe. He’s so incredibly, marvelously, wonderfully himself. Unlike the usual YA guys, he does not aim for mysteriousness or brooding. He’s endlessly optimistic and smiling, always happy to help in any sort of crazy scheme. Joe treats everyone with kindness and is incredibly open about his feelings. Plus, he’s a complete and total band geek. Quel swoony, right?

For now, this book wasn’t perfect for me, but I will be holding on to my copy and revisiting Lennie’s story some time in the future, because this might be one of those books I need a second reading to truly appreciate.

Favorite Quote:

“Joe smiles an embarrassed half smile at Gram and Big, leans against the counter, his trumpet case now strategically held over his crotch. Thank God I don’t have one of those. Who’s want a lust-o-meter sticking out of the middle of their body?”

29 responses to “Review: The Sky Is Everywhere”

  1. Bookworm1858 says:

    I love Joe so much, with his beautiful long eyelashes and sunny disposition. But I was overall annoyed by Lennie as well because she made so many bad decisions!

  2. I love this book so much. A big part of reading for me is the actual writing. The words and the rhythm of writing. Words just do it for me, and in this case I found them poetic and painful. And the imagery! Birds exploding from Lennie’s chest and rain pouring back into the sky and burning libraries.

    In short, I can overlook major character flaws if the words are pretty enough.

    I’m glad you didn’t hate it.

  3. Aly says:

    Ahhhh the feels! I loved this book sooo much. I can’t remember crying but I’m pretty sure I did. Glad you liked it 🙂

  4. Natalie says:

    I had a similar reaction when I read this. On the one hand, the writing was beautiful, but on the other Lennie made me so angry. It’s one of the few books on my Kindle that I haven’t read more than once, although I am thinking that I may need to revisit it soon. Great review! You put a lot of my thoughts into words on this one.

  5. KM says:

    Did I trade this book with you? I feel like I did, but maybe my memory is lying to me. lol I’m glad you liked it! Super serious contemps just aren’t my thing, and I think I would have enjoyed the way she writes!

  6. Ya know sometimes an imperfect book can truly be a five when it wraps itself around you creating all kinds of emotions. Awesome review and I love how Lennie evokes all of these emotions from you.

    • Christina says:

      She really does. True. I reserve my 4.5 and 5 star books for ones that impact me emotionally, whether that means butterflies or tears or despair or hope or laughter.

  7. I’ve heard an endless amount of amazing things for this one, but for some reason, it’s just never really interested me. You of all people know that I am not a fan of angst, and my-family-member-died stories are just chocked full of them so I normally tend to stay away. (Weird, though: in TV shows – ie: The Vampire Diaries – I can handle angst and high school drama, and actually kinda like it. But books? Blarg.) Though I’m glad you liked this one so much, Christina! The main character definitely doesn’t seem like one I’d like, but I’m all for awesome side-characters. (More often than not I like side-characters more than the main characters. *shrugs* I don’t know why the authors put so much effort into making the side characters so vibrant and fun and interesting and then you go back to the main characters and they’re as interesting and vibrant as a sack of manure. Aaaaaanyway….) Also, by saying she cheats, do you mean infidelity, or like cheating on a test? (I’m guessing the former, but it’s worth asking.) If it is the former then I really think it’s best for me to stay away from this. It is very, VERY difficult for me to like a character after they’re unfaithful, much less the main character.

    • Christina says:

      Ha, well, Lennie is interesting, but I do not love her unreservedly, and I’m not sure that she deserves her happy ending. I’m a bit like Darcy in how unforgiving I am. She’s definitely not a sack of manure, though! Yes, she cheats on her boyfriend. This book is SO not for you, because angst and a half. You would die laughing at the stupid shit Lennie does.

  8. Renae says:

    You sold me with poetic prose. There’s something so wonderful about novels that are written in a way so that I can almost imagine the author taking them to a poetry slam or something. It’s right up my alley, seriously. Breaking grammar rules, crazy metaphors. I live for that stuff.

    The characters sound okay—I wouldn’t have picked this book up based on the jacket blurb, for sure. It’s great to hear that Lennie a) experience growth throughout the course of the novel and b) isn’t competing to be canonized as a modern Holy Virgin.

    • Christina says:

      Oh man, there are crazy metaphors everywhere, but the kinds that really work with the moments. She did it well. I avoid poetic prose and poetry most of the time, because they’re so hard to get right, but I think Nelson rocked that.

      Yes, I loved how horny she was throughout the book. Yay! An author admitting that women have a sex drive!

  9. This is, hands down, one of my favorite books ever. I love the writing. I love that it has a lot of grief but still so much hope. And JOE. Oh, boy, do I LOVE me some Joe Fontaine!

    I get what you are saying about being torn on the character of Lennie. I didn’t have the same issues you had with her, but your’s isn’t the first review I’ve read where many see her actions as unforgivable.

    But I couldn’t agree more on you statements about how Lennie never really lived until Bailey died. And I LOVE your statement about Lennie being an unusual YA heroine because she was curious about sex. The sex positive aspect of the book is one of my favorite parts. Wish more YA wasn’t written like that (I’m getting sick of the virgins myself…;)

    Loved reading your thoughts, Christina. I always check out reviews of TSIE to see how others feel about this book I love so much!

    • Meant to say “I wish more YA WAS written sex positive…” Gah, that’s a really bad typo…

    • Christina says:

      Oh, Joe. He’s such a sweet guy, and he does NOT deserve the shit he gets put through by women.

      Yup, I do get more than usual why she did what she did, melodramatic as it was, but Joe is amazing. And NO. Just no.

      Ha, seriously, they do need to be more sex positive. Teens think about sex a lot, boys and girls alike, so it’s ridiculous how disinterested a lot of characters seem.

  10. Stephanie says:

    This was one of those books I really wanted to love, but it ended up just being a little too much for me, I guess…I rolled my eyes a few time. I did love the poems, though–I almost wish the whole book had been written in verse. Sounds like that wouldn’t be your style, though!

    • Christina says:

      Ha, I can definitely see that. I rolled my eyes some as well, because, really?, did that just happen? Ha, well, for Jandy Nelson I would try it, because she seems like she would do a good job with it.

  11. “Rated up because the book made me feel” I totally get that! I have heard this book compared to If I Stay by Gayle Forman…have you read that one? Any comparison?

  12. I’ve read this book a while ago and yeah at some points plot killed me, but hell her writing style blow me away. That’s way I managed to enjoy the book 🙂 Great review 🙂

  13. Bea Tejano says:

    Huge Sarah Dessen fan over here! Definitely adding this to my TBR list;)

  14. Isa says:

    This is one of my favourite books mostly because of the writing style, I felt like I was being transported to a different place and time. I loved the family and the characters and though Lennie did frustrate me at times I couldn’t stay angry at her for long. I like that she is so flawed and she reminds me of a friend who also made bad decisions in her time of grief.

    • Christina says:

      Oh yeah, Lennie seriously does get frustrating, but this book is beautiful. I like that it’s set in the real world, but has this air of magical realism to it, with that bed in the forest. Oh dear, I hope your friend didn’t do what Lennie did!

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