Little Willow (slayground) wrote,
Little Willow

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The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

When the story begins, seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker has been living without her older sister, Bailey, for a month, and without her mother for sixteen years. There are glaring differences between the women in her life: her mother is absent by choice, having left her daughters in the care of their grandmother when they were babies; her sister, absent by death, taken four weeks ago by a fatal arrhythmia during Romeo & Juliet rehearsal; her grandmother, the garden whisperer and painter, ever-present and six feet tall; and her best friend, hyper goth girl Sarah, who Lennie sums up as "the most enthusiastic cynical person on the planet."

Then there are the boys, and the men: the new boy in band class, Joe, who is all smiles and music; Uncle Big, as imposing in stature as his name suggests, but as huggable as a teddy bear; and Toby, a skater/cowboy hybrid who was Bailey's longtime boyfriend. Lennie finds herself uncomfortably drawn to Toby. She feels as though he is the only person who was as close to Bailey as she was, and being around him almost brings Bailey back a little bit. When she's with Toby, she hurts less, then she hurts more, until she's overwhelmed by confusion.

Meanwhile, Joe is genuine and sweet, someone that most people would feel lucky to have in their lives, but Lennie tries time and time again to push him away. She simply can't understand why anyone would be interested in her, and she's stuck on the fact that he'll only ever know her as a sisterless girl, that he didn't know Bailey, that he doesn't know what life was like with Bailey in it:

I have a horrible thought: He only thinks I'm pretty, only thinks I'm amazing, because he never met Bailey, followed by a really terrible, horrible thought: I'm glad he never mt her. I shake my head, try to erase my mind, like an Etch a Sketch. - Page 93 of the hardcover

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is a remarkable story and a notable debut. It is narrated in first-person by Lennie, but in two ways: one through the main story, the typical chapter-by-chapter pacing, and the other being the memories and stories Bailey writes on everything - anything - the back of an envelope, a piece of notebook paper, a tree - and leaves purposefully all over town. Because of this, the readers really get to know Lennie, as there are things she will write on a bathroom tile or on a page ripped out of Wuthering Heights found stuck on a branch in the woods that she doesn't want to think about, much less say out loud. The moments she relates through these scraps and scribblings elevate this already-captivating book to something even more powerful. The remembered nighttime conversations with her sister are especially heartbreaking. I only wish that these writings were truly hand-printed and photographed, rather than being computerized handwriting-like font placed over images of a napkin, a brown paper bag, and so on. The attempt was definitely made, yes, but these writings should have been as authentic-looking as possible.

Many of the characters are well-read. Sarah is all about Satre and the like, while Lennie's family is known for "road-reading" - reading a novel while walking down their scarcely-populated road. Bailey loved Like Water for Chocolate. Lennie has read Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë 23 times.

But nothing Lennie has ever read has prepared her for the loss of her sister.

The bottom drawer's full of school notebooks, years of work, now useless. I take one out, glide my fingers over the cover, hold it to my chest, and then put it in the carton. All her knowledge is gon now. Everything she ever learned, or heard, or saw. Her particular way of looking at Hamlet or daisies or thinking about love, all her private intricate thoughts, her inconsequential secret musings - they're gone too. I heard this expression once: Each time someone dies, a library burns. I'm watching it burn right to the ground. - Page 152

Every time Lennie enters or exits the bedroom they shared, she can't help but think of Bails. Her outgoing older sis is often the last thing on her mind when she falls asleep, and the first upon waking. When she's not - when Lennie realizes she's gone for a little space of time without thinking of Bailey - then little sis feels guilty for not missing her for that instant.

I can feel the summery day through the window, deliciously warming my back. But when I look over at Bailey's bed, I'm leveled. How can something this momentous be happening to me without her? And what about all the momentous things to come? How will I go through each and every one of them without her? I don't care that she was keeping things from me - I want to tell her absolutely everything about last night, about absolutely everything that will ever happen to me! - Page 134

The book is also filled with music. Lennie's first name is Lennon, prompting Joe to call her "John Lennon." The two play music, listen to music, talk about music - not obsessively, mind you, but the point is that while Lennie might see herself as a band geek, readers will more accurately see both Lennie and Joe as music aficionados, and those who love a good song as much as a good story will "get" it.

If you're curious as to the origin of the title, read on. If you'd like to discover it yourself, go pick up the book.

Years ago, I was crashed in Gram's garden and Big asked me what I was doing. I told him I was looking up at the sky. He said, "That's a misconception, Lennie, the sky is everywhere, it begins at your feet." - Page 117

Similar titles I highly recommend:
A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala
Band Geek Love by Josie Bloss (no loss, just love)
Tags: books, reviews
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