The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

sky

The Sky is Everywhere is a book about Lennie, a seventeen year-old Wuthering Heights fan/band geek who has recently had to deal with her older sister’s sudden death. She finds that her grief leaves her feeling both devastated but also, unexpectedly, more alive. Suddenly, she is noticing boys in a way she never has before and finds herself in a confusing situation when she becomes involved with not one but two boys: her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Toby, and the new boy at school, Joe.

What I really liked about this book is that it portrays the messiest parts of grief; the parts that make you do stupid, messed-up things just because you don’t know how to make yourself feel normal, don’t even know if normal is ever possible again. Whilst I found myself frustrated by Lennie’s behaviour and did find myself sympathising with Joe (sweet, charming Joe), I can also completely understand how the situation became complicated and subsequently escalated. I understand that losing someone you love can leave you feeling utterly bereft and hopeless, and it makes sense that Lennie would get her feelings about Toby confused: on the one hand, he is her sister’s boyfriend; on the other, he is connected to her in grief in a way that nobody else is. I like that Lennie is flawed and doesn’t immediately do the Right Thing. She makes mistakes and learns from them. It isn’t always easy to read, but I thought it was handled very well. I did like Lennie. Toby and Joe are also both brilliant characters and contrast really well with one another – through them Nelson deals with Lennie’s feelings about her sister; remembering and forgetting, death and life, staying the same and moving on, and all on its own, the concept of love.

Nelson writes beautifully – story aside, the descriptive sentences are gorgeous.

Some of my favourites:

“Remember how it was when we kissed? Armfuls and armfuls of light thrown right at us. A rope dropping down from the sky. How can the word love and the word life even fit in the mouth?”

“I know the expression love bloomed is metaphorical, but in my heart in this moment, there is one badass flower, captured in time-lapse photography, going from bud to wild radiant blossom in ten seconds flat.”

“…Because Gram’s right, there’s not one truth ever, just a bunch of stories, all going on at once, in our heads, in our hearts, all getting in the way of each other. It’s all a beautiful calamitous mess. It’s like the day Mr. James took us into the woods and cried triumphantly, “That’s it! That’s it!” to the dizzying cacophony of soloing instruments trying to make music together. That is it.”

I had two issues with this book, and I think both of them are probably due to the fact that I am quite a bit older than the target audience. The first was the poetry scattered around the book. I really liked the fact that this was all tied up in the story at the end, it was a nice touch, and it did contribute to the sense of the grieving process, I just think that there was perhaps a little bit too much of it. I do, however, think that seventeen year-old me would have loved this part. My second issue was one that I find fairly often when reading teenage fiction: the cultural references and interests of the characters. In this book, Lennie’s friend Sarah is really into existentialism and has a car named “Ennui”, Lennie’s favourite book is Wuthering Heights and her grandma gives her e.e. Cummings poetry instead of lunch because “some nourishment is more important”. I work with teenagers, and this does not ring true. I find the same issue in John Green’s books, even though I think he is also a fantastic writer. The characters seem a little too old and worldly to me, and whilst I still loved this book, I did let out a groan when I learned the name of the car (and then I went on holiday to Berlin and hired a bike, only to find that it was called, actually labelled, Simone De Beauvoir and felt like the Universe just knew).

Despite this, I did really like The Sky is Everywhere. It’s a book about grief, yes, but also about growing up, falling in love, and all the other good things about being alive.

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