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The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

I'm pretty sure I originally became aware of Jandy Nelson's debut novel The Sky is Everywhere when my trusty fellow Team Gale-er Adele of Persnickety Snark reviewed it last month. As she frequently does, Adele made me want to read the book right away by stating,
The Sky is Everywhere is an all encompassing study of grief, the strength of a sisterly bond, the power of attraction and love and ultimately the importance of being true to one's self.
I got a good vibe and immediately noted down the release date and put it on my TBR list. Then I was fortunate enough to win an ARC from the publisher in one of those awesome blink-and-you'll-miss-it Twitter giveaways. Thanks so much, Penguin tweeps! I blew through it in two short sessions and have been thinking about it on and off ever since.

Lennie Walker's life is a little unorthodox. Raised, along with her big sister Bailey, by her highly eccentric grandmother and uncle after her mother hit the road and didn't look back, Lennie's life has been pretty good all things considered. If a bit outside the box. Her grandmother tends a garden like unto the one in Eden, paints willowy green ladies on every available surface of their house, and believes one of her house plants is mystically linked to Lennie. When it sickens, Lennie sickens. When it thrives, she thrives. Her Uncle Big is the town lothario. Five failed marriages down and counting, he has a voice like God's, a marijuana habit, and a strange obsession with raising the dead. The insect dead, to be exact. But when Baily suddenly dies, Lennie's life is thrown off the tracks and she finds herself unable to cope without her larger-than-life sister's lead to follow. Bailey's boyfriend Toby is in a similar situation and the two of them find themselves drawn to each other for that new and unhappy bond they share. Even though they didn't really have much use for each other before. Bailey was the one thing they had in common and now they cling to each other as a means of not losing her completely. When she returns to school and band practice and her best friend Sarah, Lennie still fails to deal with life as it is now. And then Joe Fontaine comes into her life. Gorgeous, dorky, perpetually smiling Joe with his questions and his wanting to know. Why she climbs trees at lunchtime, why she plays the clarinet like a virtuoso yet determinedly sits second chair, and most of all why she's so sad.

Starting out I wasn't so sure. It's hard to get a grip on Lennie and her past right off the bat. And when things start escalating between her and Toby you do begin to wonder about this girl and whether or not she's going to fall all over herself throughout the novel and whether or not you'll be able to watch the train wreck. But then Jandy Nelson's lovely writing steps in and gracefully does away with your fears. And how could I not sympathize with a fellow clarinet player? I was the cliché band geek myself. And even though I got out before hitting high school (and marching band), I have always had a soft spot for my band geek clarinet girl counterparts in literature. That's part of why I enjoyed Lauren in Bloom so much. But Lennie's up against a whole mess of challenges I never faced. Like suddenly having the hots for my dead sister's boyfriend. And having him reciprocate in a seriously unhealthy way. But Nelson's almost rhythmic writing carries the reader through on a swirl of high notes and low and I sympathized with Lennie on so many levels by the time the song wound to a close. The zany characters and surprising humor sprinkled throughout the story played just the right counterpoint to the dirge of grief and regret that threaten to drown Lennie. With every fragment of memory she scrawled down on scraps of paper and the sides of coffee cups, my heart hurt for her. And with every encounter with the book's great lifesaver--Joe Fontaine--and her extremely likable grandmother and uncle, I wanted her to make it more. A favorite passage (one of many):
I find Gram, who is twirling around the living room with her sage wand like an overgrown fairy. I tell her that I'm sorry, but I don't feel well and need to go upstairs.
She stops mid-whirl. I know she senses trouble, but she says, "Okay, sweet pea." I apologize to everyone and say good night as nonchalantly as possible.
Joe follows me out of the room, and I decide it might be time to join a convent, just cloister up with the Sisters for awhile.
He touches my shoulder and I turn around to face him. "I hope what I said in the woods didn't freak you out or something . . . hope that's not why you're crashing . . ."
"No, no." His eyes are wide with worry. I add, "It made me pretty happy, actually." Which of course is true except for the slight problem that immediately after hearing his declaration, I made a date with my dead sister's boyfriend to do God knows what!
"Good." He brushes his thumb on my cheek, and again his tenderness startles me. "Because I'm going crazy, Lennie." Bat. Bat. Bat. And just like that, I'm going crazy too because I'm thinking Joe Fontaine is about to kiss me. Finally.
Forget the convent.
Let's get this out of the way: My previously nonexistent floozy-factor is blowing right off the charts.
"I didn't know you knew my name," I say.
"So much you don't know about me, Lennie." He smiles and takes his index finger and presses it to my lips, leaves it there until my heart lands on Jupiter: three seconds, then removes it, turns around, and heads back into the living room. Whoa--well, that was either the dorkiest or sexiest moment of my life, and I'm voting for sexy on account of my standing here dumbstruck and giddy, wondering if he did kiss me after all.
I am totally out of control.
I do not think this is how normal people mourn.
Geez, I love that last line. It's so pregnant with everything that's going on in that girl. A moving and delightful read and recommended for fans of Julia Hoban, Sonya Sones, and Lisa Ann SandellThe Sky is Everywhere is due out today!

A Note: The Sky is Everywhere is being compared to Sarah Dessen's novels, but I've noticed several early reviews seem to indicate Dessen fans are not that enthused with the comparison. Whereas those of us who don't seem to connect with Dessen's work find Nelson's book both fresh and compelling. There are, of course, exceptions but I'm interested to see if this trend continues or if it's merely conjecture on my part.


Linkage
The Book Smugglers Review
The Compulsive Reader Review
Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf Review
Opinionated? Me? Review
Persnickety Snark Review
Pure Imagination Review
Reading Nook Review
Tales of the Ravenous Reader Review
Throwing Up Words Review

Comments

  1. Angie if only I could write reviews like you do, everybody would be reading this book as well.

    I loved it. (the book and the review)

    That quote is one of my favorites too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ana, you flatter me. And I loved it, too. And reading your reviews of these kinds of books always makes me feel like we're kindred spirits.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Can I just say I'd read the book because of the cover?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hmm...I'm intrigued. Thankfully you clarified the Dessen connection, as I'm not a big Dessen fan (mainly the stories, themselves). You have caught my interest though. Now, do I have room on my TBR pile?!?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love Sarah Dessen's books. I adored this novel. But I don't think that all Dessen fans will love Nelson's. SKY is, in my opinion, deeper than Dessen's. Which isn't to say that it is better or worse, just different.

    Wonderful review, as always! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Karey, you may! I think it's lovely.

    Becky, yeah, I think you'll like this one a lot. Very little Dessen about it.

    Sara, thanks! And I'm glad to hear that you adored it. I agree with your assessment. Different and deeper.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Really great review! I wasn't sure what the book was about, but now I know I'll have to read it. I'm curious as to how it will compared with Sarah Dessen.

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  8. Kay, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it and comparisons with Dessen's stuff once you have read it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dude (and I say dude so I don't sound too gushy), you are the most wonderful chickie on the entire planet. You are way too nice to me. I honestly don't deserve it.

    Thank you for the mention :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. The Sky is Everywhere is one intense book! I was so caught up in what was happening to Lennie, our heroine, that I had to put the book down a few times and take a break. I was almost tempted to read the ending to put an end to all the suspense - and I never do that!

    ReplyDelete

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