Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Sky is Everywhere By Jandy Nelson

I read a review of this book during a blog hop in December and thankfully, I remembered to add it to my Goodreads To Read List right away so that when I was looking for books on my To Read list on the library's online catalog, I managed to find this book.  I had forgotten all about why I had added it but figured it was going to be good.  It wasn't.  It was AMAZING!  This book was so original and colorful, I just loved it and read it straight through in one sitting.  But I digress, I should give you the low down BEFORE I expound on its virtues.

Lennon "Lennie" Walker is the boring beige crayon in a family of colorful characters.  She plays clarinet in the band and everyone always remembers her as "Bailey's Little Sister."  Bailey was always the outgoing one, the one who could go out and do things.  Bailey was an actress, she belonged on the stage.  That's why Lennie misses her so much now.  Bailey was so bright a star that you notice when she is missing.  Lennie almost wishes it was her under the ground and not her amazing sister because without Bailey, Lennie doesn't feel like doing much at all.  When Bailey died, something inside Lennie died with her.  Suddenly, Joe- a transfer student from Paris, comes to town and sparks changes in Lennie.  She begins to think about playing and she even begins to play her clarinet again, but only with Joe.  But life is never simple or easy and when Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, is around he makes Lennie feel almost as if Bailey is there.  One boy lifts her out of her grief and comforts her in it.  What is right and who is Lennon Walker?

I love this story.  The characters make it feel a bit like Coraline.  Uncle Big is constantly falling in love and getting married but he also has an obsession with bringing insects from the dead.  Big felt the loss of his sister and niece keenly but mourns in his own odd way.  He kind of reminds me of the man who trains mice in Coraline.  Gran is the community gardening expert whose garden is a riot of blooms and her roses are said to make people fall in love.  She also paints green ladies, often.  There is even a green painting of Lennie and Bailey's mom that sits half finished on their mantle.  Gran regularly does strange things like clear everything from the house and systematically go through every item to find the cause of the bad luck in their home.  She lost her daughter, Lennie and Bailey's mom, to her wanderlust so she feels Bailey's loss profoundly but she tries to carry on for the others.

Toby is the skater boy with a beautiful soul who was nearly destroyed by losing Bailey.  Joe is an uber popular, charming musician who finds his own place in Lennie's eccentric family- not an easy feat, by any means.  Both Toby and Joe give Lennie something that she needs but one is right and the other is wrong.  Big and Gran grow to love Joe almost as a member of their family.  They can see the positive changes that he brings about in Lennie so they accept and encourage him.  Gran and Big also feel for Toby and want to help him but even though they understand the why of Toby and Lennie's connection, they know that it isn't right.  The grief that drives them to comfort each other is not the like the love that they had for Bailey, it is that love and it's not meant for one another but for the girl no longer with them.

I felt that this book was beautiful and not "emo," as some people have called it.  I loved every minute of this story of loss as my own father is slowly dying of cancer.  It was beautiful to see the grief process play out in the story and to see love pull Lennie from her grief stricken despair.  I would suggest this book to all teens as there are not many instances of shenanigans of any kind.  There is one scene of underage drinking of wine with dinner but it is culturally acceptable in France where the one character has been living for some time- so I am letting it slide.  There are also some hot and heavy make out scenes but nothing too sexual and nothing half as bad as what you see on TV these days.  I think even young teens could get into this book is they had someone to read it with and talk it over with.

You can find Jandy Nelson on her website and you can follow her on Twitter!

The Sky is Everywhere earns 4 Fairies for a heart wrenching story about coping with grief and loss.

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