The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
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.
Lordy, oh Lordy do I love this book. In all sincerity, I love it down to the tips of my toes. I love every word, every character, every scene, even tiny moment written in its pages. In short, I want to marry this book— or at least go on a long romantic get away with it. Le sigh.
Initially I avoided The Sky Is Everywhere—although I’d heard it was beautiful— because I just didn’t want to read another sad story. My little heart can only take so much, you know? But this is much more than just a book about a girl who’s lost her sister. Lennie has lost her entire sense of self since her bright, shining star of a big sis, Bailey, suddenly collapsed and died. Since that moment one month ago, Lennie is struck with the reality that she doesn’t know who she is or what to do without following that radiating love from her only sibling.
As Lennie’s grief is at its very pinnacle, she finds comfort in the one person who completely understands the darkness she feels: Toby, Bailey’s boyfriend. Toby is practically drowning in sadness and Lennie soon finds that with their mutual pain comes a strange force, almost like a magnet drawing them to each other, even against the inner voice that tells her Toby is the one guy she should never be with.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Joe, the new boy in school (but you knew that right? New guy= hot. It’s a rule.). Joe is obviously interested in Lennie (he calls her “John Lennon”. How cute is that?), and he envelops her in his uniquely sweet charm. He’s like a human sun, overflowing with warmth and joy and helping Lennie to feel happy in moments when she otherwise would not. Both boys, Lennie’s family (including her awesome, mildly crazy Grams), and Lennie’s memories of Bailey, help her on her journey through the mourning process.
Nelson’s writing is absolutely beautiful. It was, to me at least, somewhat reminiscent of Sarah Dessen—the master at artfully balancing flawed heroines, swoony boys, and weightier issues. She paints a vivid picture of grief and healing, as well as the guilt sometimes associated with being the one left behind. And her characters were endearing. Lennie is both heartbreaking and hilarious, maintaining a bizarre inner monologue of insane thoughts. Bailey, though we only get to know her through flashbacks, is that perfect older sister—always Lennie’s biggest protector and most ardent cheerleader. Grams is totally nuts, but in that quirky sort of way where, if she were your grandma you might be embarrassed, but as an outsider she’s just awesomely kooky. And the boys…shall we sigh again? Toby is a sort of heartbroken cowboy (seriously. He’s into horses) who has a primal connection to Lennie that is undeniable. And Joe, who clearly adores Lennie, is force of hope and clarity throughout her pain.
The Sky Is Everywhere is laced with poetry, sweet but often painful memories and a realistic sense of loss. It paints a vivid picture of what it means to love and to grieve while at the same time offering so many moments that made me laugh out loud or smile (especially the swoonworthy romance). In the end, I was sad to close that cover and say goodbye to Lennie’s story. This is already one of my favorite books of the year.
Crush Intensity: 5/5 So enchanting. I’m totally quel dork for this one.
“Good. Glad that’s decided.” He raises an eyebrow. “I’m going to deflower you, John Lennon.”
“Oh my God, so, so embarrassing, quel, quel, major dork.” I try to cover my face with my hands, but he won’t let me. And then we are wrestling and laughing and it’s many, many minutes before I remember that my sister has died.
And just one more:
When I’m with him
there is someone with me
in my house of grief,
someone who knows
its architecture as I do
who can walk with me
from room to sorrowful room
making the whole rambling structure
of wind and emptiness
not quite as scary, as lonely
as it was before.
Soundtrack: The Beatles