All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Sky Is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson

on March 24, 2013

Sky EverywhereThe Sky Is Everywhere
Jandy Nelson
Walker Books
2010, 366p
Read from my TBR pile

Seventeen year old Lennie Walker is grieving. Recently and without warning, her beloved older sister Bailey dropped dead of an aneurysm while rehearsing for a play. Now Lennie doesn’t know how to function, how to go on, without Bailey.

Abandoned by their mother when Lennie was 1 and Bailey 3, the girls were raised by their grandmother and uncle. Sticking together, they became incredibly close and Lennie always thought that Bailey was the bright shining star and that she was the support act. Without Bailey and thrust front and centre of attention, Lennie doesn’t know how she’s supposed to act or what she’s supposed to do.

Toby, Bailey’s boyfriend doesn’t know how to cope without her either. In attempting to make sense of their grief and perhaps because they are the only people that understand each other’s pain, Toby and Lennie connect in ways that they shouldn’t but none of them know how to stop it. Lennie also attracts the interest of new guy at school Joe and before she knows it, she’s gone from never really having anyone interested in her to delicately negotiating two boys who want very different things from her. One boy takes the pain away from Lennie, the other one wallows in it with her and together they both feel that there might still be some kind of connection to Bailey. Lennie knows that what she is doing is wrong, so wrong – but she doesn’t know how to stop it either. The trouble with secrets though, is that they always come out in the end.

I’ve heard a lot of really good things about this book. I bought it last year for $5 and was nicely surprised when it arrived – it’s so pretty! It’s a bound version vivid with pictures of the poems Lennie scribbles everywhere – on scraps of paper, on coffee cups, on the back of candy wrappers. And the text is a lovely blue (although I know why my copy was $5 – there’s a few pages towards the end that have been mistakenly printed with black ink). The cover looks like those paintings you did in school where you cover a paper with blotches of paint and then fold it over to smooth all the colours together and then use the tip of a paintbrush to write something in the paint. It’s safe to say that when I picked it up on a whim to read something from my shelves, that my expectations were high.

Normally I have a big problem with cheating – it can be a dealbreaker for me. It was hard at times to read this book as Lennie continued to fool around with Toby at the same time that she’s starting a blossoming relationship with Joe. Only the depth of Lennie’s grief and the irrationality of it saved this book for me. I do feel like that utter soul-destroying grief was portrayed so well here by the author. Lennie is someone who basically lived her life in Bailey’s shadow, although not in a bad way. She just looked up to her older sister and was perhaps always one step behind her. The relationship that they had sounded incredible. And Bailey was taken so quickly and randomly that Lennie just doesn’t know how to be herself without Bailey. The connection that she finds with Toby allows them to somehow still have her – they are the two people Bailey loved best. And even though they feel they are betraying her, they can’t stop what they are doing. Their grief manifests in a way that makes them want to celebrate living. It’s uncomfortable at times, especially after the introduction of Joe and you want to shout at Lennie that NO! This is not right, it’s not good for you, or him, or Joe and it’s going to end so badly. But even though Lennie knows this, she cannot stop herself either. It’s such a vicious circle.

I think that grief is really hard to get right in a book – too much and it comes off as cheesy and fake, dramatically overdone. Too little and it seems insincere and cold. I think this book manages to get it just right – Lennie is that teen who is devastated and struggling to find her footing again but she’s also finding that her life will move on without Bailey, which is equal parts exciting (Joe) and horrifying (no Bailey to share those moments with). She neglects her best friend, she even neglects her grandmother and uncle, so caught up is she in how she feels and how things are affecting her. It’s such a typical teenage reaction – to not notice how the others around you are suffering just as much. She does need a bit of a wake up call towards the end of the book to realise just how her behaviour (not just with Toby) has been affecting other people. Bailey might be gone and nothing can change that, but she is still here. She still has a lot of life left ahead of her and would her sister want her to spend every waking moment lamenting her loss? I don’t think anyone would want that for someone they cared about.

I think this book deserves all the great wraps that it gets. It’s well pitched and the added scribbles of Lennie’s poems really contribute to the story. It seems that this is Jandy Nelson’s only book so far and I really hope she releases another one soon!

8/10

Book #71 of 2013

 

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