30 December 2010

5 Things about Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere

5.  The main story line of the book is this (Spoilerish-maybe):  A young girl Lennie, named after John Lennon by her flightly, absent mother, is mourning the sudden death of her twin sister Bailey.  Amidst her grief she finds herself falling in love with the new boy in school, the guitar-playing, heart-throbbity Joe Fontaine.  As Bailey grieves the death of her sister, and battles with her conflicting feelings, she learns a number of carefully kept secrets about members of her family, including Bailey.  She also develops a strange and intense relationship with her sister's boyfriend Toby that threatens to spin out of control and destroy her budding romance with Joe.

4. Lennie is a poet and at the beginning and end of most of the chapters there are snippets of poetry that she leaves around her home and school and in the woods surrounding her neighborhood.  Such as:
Grief is a house
where the chairs
have forgotten how to hold us
the mirrors how to reflect us
the walls how to contain us
Grief is a house that disappears
each time someone knocks at the door
or rings the bell
a house that blows into the air
at the slightest gust
that buries itself deep in the ground
while everyone is sleeping
Grief is a house where no one can protect you
where the younger sister
will grow older than the older one
where the doors
no longer let you in
or out (pg. 73)

I thought that these little poems were really lovely.  I didn't like them because they are "good" poems, but because they seemed real to me.  I think I remember writing just this type of poetry when I was a teenager: narrative verse, brimming with emotion, and occasionally containing poignant moments and/or apt description. 

3. The title of the book, The Sky is Everywhere, comes from a story that Lennie tells about looking up at the sky.  Her Gran (or Uncle Toby, I can't remember exactly) tells her that there is no need to look up at the sky, because the sky is everywhere.

2.  There was something about this book that was really warm to me.  The descriptions of Gran's garden and kitchen, and the descriptions of Joe and his brothers playing music, not to mention the descriptions of Lennie and her friends sunning themselves by the river, or laying amongst the old growth redwoods, were all really cozy and comfortable images for me.  Although they are incredibly different books, something about the descriptions in the book came alive for me the same way that the descriptions in Don DeLillo's The Body Artist do.

1. The romance plot of this book really worked for me.  I think Nelson accurately captured the desperation and joy of teenage first love.  I also think she deals well with the way that grief and love can coexist, and also seem so impossibly paradoxical at the same time.

Overall:  I would recommend this one.  The writing was quality and the plot felt unique to me.  This is the first YA contemporary novel that I've read since I was a teenager myself, so that definitely helped it feel fresh. 

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