The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Sky is Everywhere

Author: Jandy Nelson

Published: March 9, 2010

Number of Pages: 288

Rating: 2/5

Let me say first that this book happens to be an old ARC (a friend gave it to me), so there are certain things that have probably changed between this printing and the next. Also, the quote is from the uncorrected version as well.

Quote:

When he plays
all the flowers swap colors
and years and decades and centuries
of rain pour back into the sky

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life—and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie’s struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable. [From Goodreads]

Review:

I have mixed feelings about The Sky is Everywhere. There were certain parts that I was really interested in – such as the first Joe/Lennie scenes – but there were others that drove me insane in all the wrong ways.

The one thing I’m certain of is Jandy Nelson’s prose. Gorgeous. I love the way she’d use phrases seen in Victorian literature (Lennie’s obsession). The descriptive passages are fantastic. The similes and metaphors she employs are unique and beautiful. I probably looked forward to the poetry at the beginning of every chapter more than the actual chapter. If I pick up one of her future novels, it will be because I’m excited to see how she’ll say whatever it is she’ll say.

The topics of the book are deep and dramatic. The bond between Lennie and her sister is apparent from the first page, as is the pain and confusion and desperation that Lennie feels now that her sister is dead. This book juggles dozens of emotions in addition to the ones I just mentioned, such as passion, hunger, sympathy, shame, anger, and love. Though emotions are always crucial to a book, there was one downside to this bombardment of feelings – the book came off as melodramatic. Sure, terrible things had happened, but the bouncing between bliss and despair… it seemed a little over-the-top to me. Coincidentally, it reminds me of Wuthering Heights (Lennie’s favorite book). It’s certainly entertaining and deep – even heart-wrenching, but there’s also something slightly ridiculous about it

I think one of my biggest problems with the book is Lennie. I would have liked to be her friend (mostly due to her love of Victorian literature and her vocabulary. It appeals to my dorkiness.), but she drove me crazy. Really, really crazy. I was so irritated by her, so sick of her making the same stupid decisions. Grief makes people do crazy things. It can turn them into animals. I have to understand that, but there are only so many things I can excuse. Of course, the protagonist doesn’t have to comply with all my good-person-guidelines, but there’s no doubt that it’s not very fun to read about someone who keeps disappointing you or pulling old problems back up the cue. As the story went on, however, I liked her a little more.

In fact, I think the last quarter to one third of the book was the most enjoyable for me, so much more that I nearly rated the book 3/5. Lennie finally got her act together and tried to make amends, to put everything she’d broken back together. I was actually pleased that she ran into obstinate, stubborn, upset people along the way because she really had hurt them – she’d really screwed up. I believe that forgiveness is important and necessary, but I also believe that people need to stand up for themselves.

That’s not to say that people should fight fire with fire, which is what one character happened to do. The remarkable thing is that the compromises and understandings that everyone comes to at the end were believable. Everyone in the book learns valuable lessons in a beautifully non-preachy, natural way. I appreciate that.

Moving on to the boys. I couldn’t finish this review without addressing both of them. They’re such integral parts of Lennie’s healing process, thus the bit of the synopsis that reads: “One boy takes her out of her sorrow, and the other comforts her in it.”

Toby, quite understandably, was someone I wasn’t quick to like. The things he and Lennie did were bordering on revolting, but I was surprised at the end to realize that I think he’ll do just fine. He’ll scrape the bits of his honor back up and meld them together. The path he and Lennie took to their relationship was one I’d never walk down and one that I don’t respect, but it got them where they need to be.

Joe was someone I liked immediately, and the contrast between the two boys was evident just as quickly. Joe is the sun personified. He’s cheery and polite. It seems like he lives to smile… until he doesn’t. The worst part about being so happy all the time is that you’re easily capable of plunging downward, even farther than those who keep their happiness “under control.” Joe’s angry, hurt self is hard to take. Despite that, he’s super fun to be around, and I loved reading the scenes with him.

Essentially, I have plenty of issues with the book. The morals, actions, and other things of that sort weren’t where I wanted them to be. There were scenes I was uncomfortable reading. I literally screamed at the book once or twice due to irritation with the characters. Yet, there were redeeming qualities, such as the prose and the lessons learned. The characters ended up where the ought to be. Though they struggled and screwed up and then screwed up again, they grew, developed, learned to forgive, and, ultimately, to accept the parts of life that they have no control over.

8 Commentsto “The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson; Review”

  1. ohhhhhhh 🙁 i'm so sad you didn't like it 🙁 But i understand where you're coming from for all these topics you mentioned, and I just loved the prose too 🙂

  2. I loved THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, but this is a thoughtful, honest review. Nice job 🙂

    • Thanks! It's always hard when my reviews veer toward negativity. Alas, I'm destined to run into books that I simply am not in love with. :/

  3. I haven't seen a review on the side of negative before on this, I gave it a gushing review but I actually found myself understanding some of the points you made, it's quite to similar how I felt with Before I Fall, I couldn't get into the characters and so the whole experience was ruined. Thanks for the honesty!

  4. I also had a hard time enjoying BEFORE I FALL. It started out strong, but after a while I felt like I was reading something similar to the movie GROUNDHOG DAY. I didn't like how often the same details were repeated.

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