Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere is just a beautiful book. Jandy Nelson has an MFA in poetry, and it shows. The story is good, and the writing is great. I can’t remember ever reading a book that had me tearing up on page 20. I started tagging quotes that I might want to mention in this review, but I have so many tags, I guess you just need to read it or else I’d be copying the whole book!

Lennie has lost her 19-year-old sister, Bailey, to a fatal heart arrhythmia. Lennie lives with her Gram and her Uncle Big. Bailey and Lennie’s mom disappeared 17 years ago, when Lennie was only one year old. So, you can see, there’s a lot of loss, and this is a story of recovery – Lennie and her family must learn to go on living without Bailey. It is a very difficult and heartwarming road to recovery.

Joe Fontaine has just moved here, and never knew Bailey.  He’s instantly attracted to Lennie, but Lennie doesn’t feel right being happy in a relationship because she’s supposed to be miserable without her sister. Toby is Bailey’s boyfriend, and he seems to be the only one that can help Lennie through this dark, brooding, miserable period of her life.

So those are the main characters—each one complete and individual. They all are struggling in one way or another, and don’t seem to realize that they all need each other to get through this. Nelson tells this story as if she’s lived through it, with such compassion and understanding. One way Lennie has of working through her sadness is to write poems on scraps of paper and then leave them in random places around town. Each one of these poems is a work or art itself.

I’m not usually a “quoter” but I have to mention a few:

Lennie on why she can’t talk about what she’s going through: “I can’t. I need a new alphabet, one made of falling, of tectonic plates shifting, of the deep devouring dark.” (p. 12)

Lennie talking about Joe: “I’m impressed at how quickly he’s caught on that there is nothing to do but grab a wing when Gram’s aflight with fancy.” (p. 88)

“There are families all over the world staring at beds that are no longer slept in, shoes that are no longer worn. Families that no longer have to buy a particular cereal, a kind of shampoo. There are people everywhere standing in line at the movies, buying curtains, walking dogs, while inside, their hearts are ripping to shreds. For years. For their whole lives. I don’t believe that time heals. I don’t want it to. If I heal, doesn’t that mean I’ve accepted the world without her?” (p. 168) 

Wow! This book is full of these beautiful thoughts. I lost my brother 36 years ago, and that last quote really hit home. It changes you for your whole life. And I’ve also fallen head over heels in love (which also changes your whole life) and Nelson gets that right too.

Read this. It’s special. It’s lyrical. It’s romantic. Recommended to . . . everyone.

Published by Dial Books, 2010
Copy obtained from the Library
275 pages

Rating: 5/5

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  1. I've heard such good things about this book. One of my friends just loaned it to me and I can't wait to read it.

  2. It sounds extremely moving Annette. I actually have it on my Kindle and I can see I'm going to need a box of Kleenex when I read it. Thanks for a lovely review.

  3. Oh my goodness this book sounds wonderful! I've seen it around and I know I need to read it now!

  4. This was one of my fav reads last year. Such a powerful book. I loved Joe. One of the best contemp fiction guy characters. Yet I also empathized with Toby. My fav part of the book was the use of poetry - not just the words but the way that the reader could see that it was written on a cup, a tree, etc.


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