The Sky is Everywhere is the YA debut novel by American author, Jandy Nelson. It was released on 7th June 2010 by Walker Books UK and is 368 pages long. Thanks to Walker Books UK for sending me a copy for review.
Lennie Walker's older sister, Bailey, was always the one in the spotlight. She had the perfect relationship and a promising career as an actress. Lennie is quite happy to be the quiet sister, the one living in the background but when Bailey dies, she finds herself lost and struggling to deal with her own life, as well as the lost of her best friend.
When Lennie goes back to school, she realises just how much has changed. There's a new boy, Joe, that everyone is talking about, sat in her chair when she goes to band practise and Bailey's boyfriend Toby is always hanging around the house but Lennie doesn't know how to deal with everyone around her. As Lennie tries to deal and work through her grief, she feels connected to both boys. Sharing the love for her sister with Toby and the love of music with Joe, Lennie's world gets more complicated than she ever could have imagined and Bailey's voice is always in the back of her mind, trying to remind her who she really is.
What I thought
The Sky is Everywhere has to be one of the most beautiful books that I have ever read. I certainly wasn't expecting to be as in love with it as I am now, even after hearing so many good things about it. I was so glad to not be disappointed by this book after it was surrounding by such a big hype.
If you read the back of the book, it is clear that the story is going to deal with the topic of loss and grief, which will always be a hard topic to address. Jandy Nelson managed to write this beautiful story and characters without ever losing who they really were or what they were feeling. Each character that was connected to Bailey deals with her death in different ways which sometimes results in clashes between them. I can't say that I could connect with Lennie on such a personal level, not having lost anyone this close to me, but I could certainly feel what she was going through and sympathise with her and her situation. The part that I could connect with though was her relationship with her sister. I have always felt as though I have lived in my elder sisters shadow a little bit so I can only imagine what Lennie would feel once Bailey had died and she was left all alone and getting a lot of attention.
Lennie has two really difficult relationships to deal with from the very start of the story. As soon as Joe appeared, I knew that I was going to love him. Coming from Paris, I knew that there was going to be something very sensual and amazing about him that I was going to fall in love with straight away. The blossoming relationship between him and Lennie was delightful and I thought it was just what Lennie needed. They instantly had a connection and amazing chemistry as they had so much in common and a lot that they could share. Their connection was so believable from the off and I couldn't wait to find out how things were going to progress between them.
What Joe doesn't know is that Lennie also has a strong connection with Toby and because of this, I felt so sorry for him. I was really apprehensive about this part of the story because I wasn't sure that it was going to work or feel right but it did in ever single way. I could understand what and why Lennie was feeling what she did towards Toby and vice versa. The problems they shared were perfectly in context with the rest of the story and only enhanced it in my opinion. Lennie and Toby also had passion and chemistry but in a completely different way to what she has with Joe.
Lennie, Toby and Joe, along with some of the other characters were extremely well written. The enthusiasm and detail that has gone into creating such interesting characters is so clear that you cannot help but fall in love with them all. Lennie's Grandmother and Uncle also have a big part to play in the story and are two very unique characters. They really brought something different to the table as well as a lot of humour. I loved that Gram was slightly eccentric and nothing like my Nanna and Big, Lennie's Uncle was so strange that I wanted him as my own Uncle. Both of these characters added a fair amount of humour to the story in places due to their personalities which helped give the story a lighter feel at times which I felt was needed so that it didn't become depressing.
The story is very well paced, taking enough time to really develop what is happening to Lennie and those around her. Everything that I could have possibly wanted to know was covered and in great detail so I never felt as though I missing anything or important facts were left out. Everything about the structure of this story drew me in and kept my attention the whole way through. As the story is told from Lennie's point of view, it makes it feel very personal and almost as though it is like reading her diary of what she is feeling and how different events affect her.
The way that this book is presented is just as beautiful as the story itself. The text is printed in blue, to match the title and cover of the book. I find it easier to read in blue (I actually write everything in the same colour), compared to black, so I was very pleased with this choice. Throughout the book are pictures of handwritten notes between Lennie and Bailey and poems that Lennie wrote on different things. I adored this aspect of the book as it was unlike anything I had ever seen in this type of book. This was something that added to the uniqueness of The Sky is Everywhere and something that brought the realisation of Lennie and Bailey's relationship to life. As we don't get to see anything of their relationship before Bailey died, this was a great way of learning about their past and just how close they really were. I actually went through the book again after I had finished reading it just so I could look at these parts again.
The Sky is Everywhere is one of the most impressive debut novels I have ever come across. Jandy Neilson clearly poured her heart and soul into this story, making the words come alive on every page. It's beautiful. It's sad. It's heart-warming. It's so much more than all of those things. This was another book that I planned to read a couple of chapters of at 11pm that kept me awake until gone 3am because I couldn't have put it down if I had tried. Everyone needs to read this book!
Lennie has always been like the sidekick to her older sister, Bailey. They meant everything to each other. Both feeling that they couldn't really cope without the other. And then it happens. Bubbly and passionate Bailey dies, unexpectedly.
Lennie feels utterly lost without her sister, not really sure what to do with herself, without Bailey's lively advice and energetic spirit. And it doesn't really help that their mother took off when they were at an early age, which Gram had always blamed on to the so-called 'restless gene' that runs in their family, so now she's only got Uncle Big and Gram. Lennie doesn't believe that life should go on like this, with the people around her smiling and laughing, I mean, why should anyone even be allowed to act like this when Bailey has just DIED! Can't they feel her pain. Whilst Lennie has begun drowning in her grief, she meets the captivating Joe Fontaine, a charming, talented musical genius who is determined to help Lennie move on and forget the destruction.
Insert Toby. Bailey's boyfriend. Who has to make life so much more complicated for Lennie. But who can blame him, his girlfriend (maybe a bit more than that..) is dead, and Toby just needs to look for comfort: in the form of Lennie. After first sharing her misery with Toby, Lennie feels like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders; she finally has someone she can connect to, and she can pour out all the messed-up emotions in her heart that she couldn't escape before.
In her reflection of the world around her, Lennie must think again about what it really means to be alive, not stuck beneath the ground, and try to interpret the world in a different way.
The characters were very realistic, they all fitted together even though each one had a very different personality, and the actions they did led them all to connect with Lennie, although not necessarily with each other. I loved Lennie especially, first things first, her name: wow. I thought that was fantastic! Lennon. Inspired by John Lennon. It was really pretty name, cute and it suited her perfectly.
Jandy Nelson's debut novel is a heart-wrenching tale of love and forgiveness. This book deals with a very serious issue and I felt Jandy portrayed it in a light-hearted way, and pulled it off very successfully. And Jandy being compared to Sarah Dessen, added bonus. I love Sarah Dessen, so I instantly knew that I would enjoy this, but not in this way, I feel so strongly for this book, it is definitely one of my favourite books of 2010. I also really liked the scattered poems that Lennie leaves lying around, and to find out that Joe has gone out of his way to find them all, on his own little mission was very sweet. Please, if you know what's good for you, read Lennie's story, and let her make the same huge impact on you, she did me.
Lennie Walker has always felt safe in her sister's shadow; with Bailey there Lennie could float through life without having to worry too much about being the center of attention. So when Bailey dies, the bottom of Lennie's world falls from underneath her and she suddenly finds herself very much the center of attention and doesn't know how to deal with it, particularly when it appears that she has two boys to choose from. There's Toby, but what kind of girl falls for her sister's boyfriend; her dead sister's boyfriend, no less? Then there's Joe, the new boy in town with a grin the size of America. But how can Lennie be falling in love when her sister Bailey isn't around to witness it? But who is Lennie actually falling in love with? Toby or Joe?
Jandy Nelson's debut novel only came to my attention a couple of months ago when I saw it being reviewed everywhere after it's American release. I thought it sounded fantastic and I was pleased to find out that it was going to be published in the UK. I was contacted by one of the ladies who work for Jandy's UK publishers, Walker, about getting a review copy and I jumped at the chance to be able to get an early copy of the book. It took a little while to arrive and I was eager to get stuck in as soon as possible. I finally finished the book I was reading when The Sky Is Everywhere arrived and got stuck in hoping for a fantastic debut novel.
I knew from reading the blurb of the book that the book dealt, as you can expect if you've read the blurb, with death and the aftermath of death and how it affected those left behind. Grief is always a difficult topic to write about and you certainly have to have a certain touch to pull off a book that deals with the aftermath of the death of a loved one. With The Sky Is Everywhere I thought Jandy Nelson did a fantastic job portraying just how confused Lennie was after the death of her sister, and best friend, Bailey. I truly didn't think the Lennie/Toby strand of the storyline would work; but it really really did. I thought I would find it disgusting and wrong and that it would tarnish Bailey's memory in some way, but Jandy handled it so well that although it was wrong on a lot of levels, it was also understandable; it made sense.
My absolute favourite favourite favourite (yes I just said favourite three times) part of the book was the blossoming relationship between Lennie and Joe. From that very first meeting, in the first few pages, I loved them together. They seemed to spark off each other so well and I loved that Joe called Lennie John Lennon. Their chemistry was fantastic and they're almost certainly one of my favourite pair of characters that I've read in a long, long time. Of course, with Lennie having to decide between both Toby and Joe there was bound to be some sort of huge part in the middle where it all exploded and let me tell you, it was a good explosion. It was a good way for everything to pour out and boil over and although it was a bit sad, it also meant for a fantastic build up to the end of the book.
I absolutely loved Lennie, right from the off. I'm the kind of person that prefers to stay in the shadows rather than be the center of attention so I could totally understand how much Lennie's life changes after Bailey's death. Lennie goes from standing in her sister's shadow to being the only person there, with no one to stand behind and it was a huge change. She went from being a shy music-geek to fighting off the attentions of two boys. I liked both Toby and Joe but for very different reasons. It was clear that Toby was struggling to come to terms with everything that had happened and although I thought he was a bit full-on at times, I did still manage to understand his feelings. Joe just shone from the page and I couldn't not love him. Truly, there's nothing I can say to give Joe the justice he deserves, he was a fantastic character. Two other hugely important characters to the book are Gram, Lennie's grandmother, as well as Big, Lennie's Uncle. They're also fabulous characters and are of huge importance to the book. There's quite the family atmosphere around Lennie; despite the fact her mother is AWOL and she doesn't know who her father is but the fact is, Gram and Big - and Bailey, of course - are her family. Surprisingly, although she never makes one appearance, Bailey is also important to the book. Despite the fact she's dead, she's alive throughout the book simply by the way in which Lennie relies on her, and the way Lennie keeps her room the same as it was the day she last left it.
The Sky Is Everywhere is a truly fantastic read. Jandy Nelson writes so beautifully that once I managed to sit down and get stuck into the book, I barely wanted to put it down. She writes from Lennie's point of view incredibly well and Lennie's voice is just fantastic. Jandy has put a note in the advance copies of the book saying that she herself lost someone important to her around about Lennie's age so it means she's able to write grief very very well, as I said. There are a lot of kooky elements to the book all of which add up to make a totally fantastic debut novel. I truly hope Jandy is currently working on her second book, I for one will be snapping it up as soon as it's physically possible. I hugely recommend The Sky Is Everywhere, it's a fab read.