Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Title: The Sky is Everywhere
Author: Jandy Nelson
Enjoyment Rating: *****
Source: Personal Copy
Content Alert: Swearing, acknowledgement of teen sex

Seventeen-year-old Lennie has always been okay with being second. She's the second clarinet in band at her Northern California high school, the one her best friend is always encouraging to live a little, and the younger, quieter of two sisters being raised by their uncle and grandmother. When her older sister Bailey suddenly dies, Lennie doesn't know how to grieve, doesn't know how to be alone, and feels uncomfortable with all of the attention she's getting. To make matters worse, she's feeling attracted to two boys, Bailey's boyfriend Toby, maybe the only person on earth who understands how Lennie feels, and Joe, the gorgeous French horn player who just moved to town and doesn't understand that Lennie is supposed to be a sidekick. The Sky is Everywhere is a hard, lovely story about a girl who's trying to put her own mind back together after it's been rocked in the worst way possible.

I think most people who read my blog know how much I loved Nelson's 2014 second book, I'll Give You the Sun, when I read it last year (The Sky is Everywhere is her first book). Annie is reading it now, and it's all I can do not to go into her room every day and grill her about what she thinks about it. So the bar was set high, really, really high, for The Sky is Everywhere. Did it succeed? In many ways, I think it did. Nelson does a great job making Lennie a rounded character, someone I felt like I knew and understood. She does incredibly stupid things during the course of the novel and matures a lot in the process. The supporting cast of characters is also pretty great, and the way Nelson intersperses dozens of poems and notes that Lennie writes to Bailey in the months after her death (and finally ties them into the narrative) is also lovely. It wasn't quite as moving for me as I'll Give You the Sun, but I think that was mainly because I loved the way she focused on the brother-sister relationship in that novel, and redeeming people who thought themselves too broken for redemption, while The Sky is Everywhere is more of a totally rocking, very thoughtful, teen romance.

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