The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is a book that had been on my radar since its release, but one that I hadn't really put any effort into getting a copy of. But Allison and I have a thing going, where we trade book recommendations and this is one that she pushed on my pretty hard.:) So I bought a copy and a few months later I read it. And guys — Let me tell you what — This is so a book worth gushing over.
I'll admit that it's not the best book I've ever read and it's not perfect. There was quite a bit about the book that I didn't love, quite a bit that annoyed me and some that kinda igged me out. But it didn't matter, because the book was told so incredibly well and the emotional confusion, the pain and turmoil in the mind of Lennie after is sister died was so real and honest and just there. The way this book made me feel what Lennie felt made the annoyances fade into the background. I don't know that I have ever read a book that so perfectly and so completely captures inner turmoil.
Lennie and her older sister Bailey have always been incredibly close. They are that rare type of sister that has also always been friends. My older sister and I are good friends now, but when we were younger, when we lived in the same house, we did not get along at all. But just before the story begins, Bailey dies. Her heart gives out suddenly and Lennie feels completely adrift. She'd been really questioning her place in her own life for a while, and the abrupt loss of her sister sends Lennie into complete confusion. She doesn't really know who she is or how to be without her sister and she's scared and lonely and wants her sister so bad she aches with it.
And then life gets even more confusing. One minute, she and her sister's boyfriend are talking about Bailey and sharing pain and the next they are kissing like their whole souls depend on it. Lennie had never been interested in Toby, could barely see why Bailey wanted him, but when they are together now, it seems like a part of Bailey lives again and Lennie doesn't know what to do. To make it even worse, the new kid at school, Joe, is pretty much perfect for her and she finds herself falling hard and fast and is thrilled because Joe is right there with her.
The story line with Toby was my least favorite. I understand it better now, but it kinda creeped me out to be honest, and it is also one of the reasons that the book wasn't higher on my radar when it first came out. I expected it to be a lot more involved and a lot worse than it was, so I'll say that right now for anyone hesitant to read it for that reason. It didn't happen as frequently as I expected it to. And although they are kissing, it's not as sexual as I expected it to be. It's mostly the two of them so desperate for comfort and understanding from someone else who also loved Bailey that they get confused and their emotions take on inappropriate actions. And it creates problems for them too, it's not just some random side note that happens. It matters, and it helps to explain more about Lennie's emotional state.
The characterization in this book was so completely perfect it amazed me. Every character was unique and whole. There were no half filled roles or caricatures. Each character was given their own depth and reality and I believed in each of them completely. And I do mean all of them. Lennie's grandmother (who raised them) and her Uncle Big are some of the most interesting and hilarious and just plain awesome characters I've ever come across. I can't even begin to describe them, you just have to read it to get it. Even characters we never actually meet are fleshed out and given more depth than I expected. Their mother was a wanderer and left the girls with her mother when Lennie was just a baby and she'e never come back, never made contact again. It very obviously affected both girls growing up although it affected them differently.
There is one last thing that I have to mention, because I loved it so much. Lennie writes notes to and about Bailey and what's she is going through right now on random scraps of paper or garbage and leaves them just lying around. They are never really meant to be seen or read, it is simply Lennie's unique way of grieving. A ot of them are included in the book, along with a note of where they were found and I loved this. It was my favorite individual part of the story. The notes and poems that Lennie writes gives us a greater insight into how Lennie is really feeling and what she needs to heal.
Overall, this is just a wonderfully marvelous book. One of those amazing books whose flaws become irrelevant in the face of the story and I, for one, was completely in love with this book. It is so worth reading. If you have been putting it off, don't. This is Contemporary YA at its finest. There is life and pain and love and hope and it is so real and honest that I can't help but love it.