The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is not your typical grief book. It’s completely devoid of purple prose, none of this ‘heart shattering in a million pieces, never ending tears’ BS. Rather, The Sky Is Everywhere is full of genuine heart and emotion. Lennie Walker has never been the center of attention, she’s never been the one to make a splash. Instead, the spotlight has been reserved for Lennie’s older sister Bailey. When Bailey dies from an undiagnosed heart condition, Lennie finds herself lost in grief — she is unable to do what she loves, mainly play clarinet. Yet, Lennie also finds her self experiencing changes and a bit of a sexual awakening, in that she finds herself caught between two boys, feeling her sexuality for the first time.
Friends, I am a total fan of Jandy Nelson’s writing style. The Sky Is Everywhere is impossible to set down. It is gripping. Nelson’s writing would often cut me with a turn of the phrase. It would come up unexpectedly. I mean, I never cried crocodile tears while reading this, but Bailey would be mentioned, with a bit on sisterhood and I would tear up, being one of three daughters. Further, each chapter either begins or ends with poetry ‘written’ by Lennie. It’s lovely and raw with her memories, however Lennie’s poetry never feels contrived or like something a deep emo kid would write.
As a main character, Lennie Walker is vulnerable and what I would call a quiet character. She’s not the type to make a big to-do out of everything, and I love that. I honestly spent most of The Sky Is Everywhere just wanting to help Lennie feel better and bring Bailey back for her. I wanted her to play clarinet again. Yet, I would find myself cringing too. Especially when Lennie would go for whom I felt was the wrong boy. I can understand though, as I was young once and Lennie has been through such a huge tragedy, so it’s not like she’s thinking the way she would without trauma. I loved the legitimacy of Lennie’s sexuality. I love that she has those sorts of feelings and is able to act on them and not be shamed for them. The Sky Is Everywhere was a lot more sexy than I had expected.
Now, the love interests. I know, everyone’s favorite part of a book (kidding, kidding). There’s Toby who was Bailey’s boyfriend. He is a cowboy-skater, and what I would call totally sketchy. And well, I know people are all like hey he’s grieving, that’s why he goes for Lennie, but kids, that is SKEEVY. Then there is Joe Fontaine. He’s a musician and the new kid in town. He’s funny, kind, devastatingly good looking, and cultured. Also, he didn’t know Bailey and gives Lennie the chance to forge her own identity without comparisons to Bailey. I mean, I challenge you to read this book and like Toby better. It’s totally not going to happen, because Toby is just the worst and Joe Fontaine rocks.
How could I write this review without mentioning Lennie’s family. They are quirky and awesome. She loves with her Gram and her Uncle Big. Lennie’s mother who sucks abandoned her kids to live with Gram. Uncle Big is the local lothario and he seduces women in trees and proclaims things like he is handing down the ten commandments. He is awesome. Gram, she’s got this green thumb and speaks to her plants. She also has these paintings of green women all over her house. Gram is wicked awesome.
The Sky Is Everywhere is a wonderful debut. I’m sad I waited to read Jandy Nelson’s work, but I loved it all the same and my experience was not tainted by the hype machine, since it’s a 2010 book and it’s currently 2011. I am definitely looking forward to more from Nelson.
Disclosure: Purchased copy.