Friday, May 27, 2011

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson tells the story of seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, a girl who has spent her whole life in the shadow of her older sister Bailey. However, when Bailey suddenly dies Lennie is forced into the spotlight of her own life, and the bookworm and band geek who has hardly any experience with boys finds herself balancing two. Lennie has a passionate and complicated affair with her sister's boyfriend, Toby, seemingly the only person who can truly understand her grief. At the same time, she finds herself with a romantic connection to Joe, a new boy in town with musical talent and absolutely no way to compare Lennie to the sister he never knew. Toby and Joe represent the conflicting halves of Lennie, part of her wants to move on to life without Bailey while the other part of her is still deeply grieving- but Lennie's balancing act can't last forever and the secrets she is keeping may cause her life to fall apart all over again.

The Sky is Everywhere is definitely one of those books that I took my time picking up. Sometimes, when I hear only positive feedback on a novel, I get worried about going into reading it with my expectations too high. However, when the paperback release arrived I finally picked up Nelson's debut. Reading The Sky is Everywhere it immediately became obvious why everyone has fallen in love with Nelson's writing- this is a tragic, beautiful, and at times even funny story with a message you may not relate to but with emotions you will definitely be able to connect to. I admit that the idea of a girl having a relationship with her dead sister's longtime boyfriend is instantly unappealing, but Nelson somehow manages to make it work so that the reader, even if they don't support what Lennie is doing, can understand where she is coming from and how she finds comfort in throwing herself into the physical as a way to avoid dealing with her emotional pain.

In general, I am not a fan of love triangles, and the fact that Lennie's conflicting feelings for Toby and Joe are at the centre of The Sky is Everywhere made me unsure how I would feel about her as a character. However, I found that the way Nelson told the story made perfect sense and although Lennie was involved with two boys, it is immediately obvious who she has true feelings for and who is a coping mechanism for her. Waiting for her to realize that and try to fix things before it is too late was extremely emotional. Before writing The Sky is Everywhere, Nelson was a published poet, and interspersed with each chapter of the novel is a poem that Lennie has written and hidden somewhere in the world, bits about Bailey and her grief and the choices she is trying to make. These little poems are beautiful, but Nelson's poetry shines through in her entire writing. The writing is simple but lovely, straightforward and moving. For example, at one point Lennie reflects, "I always imagined music trapped inside my clarinet, not trapped inside of me. But what if music is what escapes when a heart breaks?"

In addition to love triangles, Nelson uses another common device in young adult literature in The Sky is Everywhere- Lennie does not really have any parents. Her mother abandoned the girls when they were young, and she never knew who her father was and is instead raised by her grandmother. However, in this case I also didn't mind the device because although Lennie does not have a mother and father in the traditional sense, those roles are filled by her grandmother and uncle and so it is not as if she lives in a world without rules. Lennie's experiences with her parents also isn't something she lightly blows off, it shapes the way she experiences life and how she deals with the death of her sister.

The Sky is Everywhere begins following a tragedy, but the thing about tragedies is sometimes they can bring out sides of a person that you never expected. This is exactly what happens to Lennie when her sister Bailey, always centre stage in their family, dies and leaves Lennie to be the star of her own life. Although Nelson uses some familiar plot devices, she does so in a way that works for the story she is telling. Ultimately, I'm glad I waited to read The Sky is Everywhere until the hype calmed down but I am also very glad that I did not miss out on Nelson's beautifully written and moving debut- I cannot wait to read whatever she writes next.

Release Date: March 9th, 2010
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher 
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1 comment:

  1. Very nice review -- you addressed exactly the things I felt myself getting horrified by -- the triangle and Lennie's behavior. Not exactly my kind of book but I do enjoy poets taking on fiction so that really intrigues me!


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