by Jandy Nelson
Dial Books, 2010. 275 pages.
The beginning of The Sky Is Everywhere gives you all the major issues the book will hold and pulls you right in:
“Gram is worried about me. It’s not just because my sister Bailey died four weeks ago, or because my mother hasn’t contacted me in sixteen years, or even because suddenly all I think about is sex. She is worried about me because one of her houseplants has spots.
“Gram has believed for most of my seventeen years that this particular houseplant, which is of the nondescript variety, reflects my emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. I’ve grown to believe it too.”
Lennie’s sister Bailey died suddenly, without warning, from a fatal arrhythmia while in rehearsal for a local production of Romeo & Juliet. Lennie says, “It’s as if someone vacuumed up the horizon while we were looking the other way.”
The Sky Is Everywhere is a love story. But the story plays out with the background of Lennie’s grief at the loss of her sister.
Bailey was Lennie’s best friend, and Lennie felt like the stable pony to Bailey’s thoroughbred. Now she’s coming out from her sister’s shadow, but she certainly didn’t want it to be like this.
And the only one who seems to truly understand how much she misses Bailey is Toby, Bailey’s boyfriend. But then with all that understanding, a physical attraction springs up between them that Lennie can’t seem to resist, but that makes her feel terrible.
A new trumpet player named Joe has come to town while Lennie was home, grieving. His playing is amazing. Or, as Lennie’s friend says, unfreakingbelievable. He seems interested in Lennie, and she can’t figure out why. And how can she stand to be happy, when Bailey isn’t here?
Meanwhile, Lennie is writing poetry, poetry on found objects (like a take-out cup) and burying them or casting them to the wind. They’re mostly about memories with Bailey.
For teens who like romance, this one’s a tear-jerker. I’m afraid it kept reminding me of New Moon, simply because Lennie’s favorite book is Wuthering Heights, and she’s read it 23 times. Again we have true-love-as-destiny.
There’s a bit more talk about sex than I find romantic, but otherwise the love story is beautiful, almost too beautiful. However, Lennie’s grief over Bailey is handled so delicately and feels so true, it keeps the book from going over the edge into sentimentality.
Lennie’s Gram and Uncle Big are so quirky and interesting, they come to life for the reader. Lennie’s dealing with grief, identity, passion, true love, and so many other things. This book is a well-crafted story that deals with such strong emotions it almost crosses the line into manipulative. But not quite.
I was reading this at night during Mother Reader‘s 48-Hour Book Challenge. I decided there was no better time to let a book keep me reading until the early hours of the morning, so I actually kept going until 5:00 AM. Crying when I’m that tired is all the more draining, but I did enjoy the book. And I like the way that, even though the book deals with grief, the overwhelming emotion you’re left with at the end is joy.
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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.