The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Seventeen-year-old Lennie has felt completely lost since her older sister Bailey, aspiring actress and all around amazing gal, died suddenly from a heart arrhythmia right in the middle of play practice. Always in Bailey’s shadow, now shy Lennie doesn’t know how to be in the sun without her big sis. Further complicating matters is the fact that the sisters were raised by Gram and hippie Uncle Big because their mom left town when they were tots and hasn’t been heard from since. Gram is convinced that one day she’ll return, but Bailey dreads ever seeing her now and having to tell her she is abruptly, horribly one daughter short. Then there’s Lennie’s love life, which shouldn’t matter like a time like this, but is absurdly taking center stage. For a girl who’s barely kissed a boy, she suddenly has two ardent beaus on her hands: French songwriter Joe Fontaine whose long eyelashes and composing skills make her heart sing, and skater boy Toby, whose passionate kisses ease the pain of Bailey’s passing because he also happens to have been Bailey’s boyfriend. “I kiss him back and don’t want to stop because in that moment I feel like Toby and I together have somehow…reached across time, and pulled Bailey back.” Yeah. As you can clearly see, it’s a mess. What do you say to a heartbroken boy who whispers, “I just want to be near you. It’s the only time I don’t die missing her.” ? Full of shame, guilt, lust and fear, Lennie juggles both boys, while trying to discover who she really loves and who she really is without Bailey to lead the way. “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?”

What’s so unusual and super interesting about this debut tearjerker is Jandy Nelson‘s fearless acknowledgment and exploration of the presence of sexual feelings in the midst of grief, and how these feelings can come on strong as a reaction against death. Lustful longings during a time of mourning are inconvenient and embarrassing to say the least, and Nelson captures that beautifully in Lennie’s shamefaced voice: “I am totally out of control. I do not think this is how normal people mourn.” These feelings, which come up at the most inappropriate times, also show how Lennie is developing as a person separate from her sister. In many ways, grief and her subsequent sexual awakening are making her over into a whole new being: “..what if somewhere inside I prefer this? What if as much as I fear having death as a shadow, I’m beginning to like how it quickens the pulse, not only mine, but the pulse of the whole world.” While I don’t think Sky has knocked Before I Fall out of the top weepy chick lit spot in my heart, it came pretty darn close. There’s some trailing plot threads that didn’t get tied up to my satisfaction, and some characters I would have liked to have seen more of (like mean Rachel, who I imagined looking like a blonde Lea Michele from Glee) But Nelson has a way with words, and certain phrases caught my attention and tugged at my heart, like this poignant expression about why Lennie has to stop hanging out with Toby, no matter how comfortable it is: “We can’t keep wrapping our arms around a ghost.” If you liked the weeptastic Broken Soup or Would You, you’ll definitely want to laugh and sob your way through Sky.

9 thoughts on “The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

  1. I am eager to read this although may have to wait until I am in the mood to suffer, having just read Good Grief for my book group! Thanks for the review.

  2. I don’t usually like tearjerkers, but I have to say I loved this book. It has a lot of emotional depth and well-writen characters that helped me get past the weepy parts. Thanks for getting the word out there about this one!

  3. this book sound like really good and im not big on book where all its about is falling in love

  4. This book was so good. It made me really happy even though it was pretty sad. Through the whole book, I felt an air of hope and it made me fall in love with this book. For two weeks, I took it everywhere with me and I read it over and over. READ IT! It’s just one of those books that you don’t forget and that you keep thinking about.

  5. I was shocked to see The Sky Is Everywhere on the “Virgin Run” list. The students of mine who have also read it are shocked as well. We LOVED this book and thought it was more of a story about a family’s journey through grief than it was about “teen firsts”

  6. I started sobbing when i read the notes about Bailey. I fell in love with the characters when i met them. I sobbed through the whole book, it made me appreciate true love and what i have.

  7. This book is amazing. I know that I will read it many times, over and over. I love the characters. Especially what I know of Bailey. This is a great read and most certainly a 5 star.

  8. I have just read this book today. Didn’t take me more than 24 hours! You are instantly hooked. It is an amazing book. I was literally falling in love with the characters.

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