The Sky is Everywhere
by Jandy Nelson
Years ago, I was crashed in Gram’s garden and Big asked me what I was doing. I told him I was looking up at the sky. He said, “That’s a misconception, Lennie, the sky is everywhere, it begins at your feet.”
Kissing Joe, I believe this, for the first time in my life.
Lennie (short for Lennon, as in John) lives in Northern California with her grandma, her uncle Big and her beautiful and wild sister Bailey. Lennie is content to live in the shadows – playing clarinet and wearing out her already dog-eared copy of Wuthering Heights. Things change, though, when Bailey dies. Suddenly, Lennie finds herself more in the center-of-attention than she ever wanted to be. She also discovers that grief makes you do funny things. In her desperation to figure things out, she ends up in an improbable love triangle with dreamy Joe Fontaine, a new student from France, and Toby, her deceased sister’s boyfriend. It is up to Lennie to make things right and discover who she is before she loses even more than she thought possible.
There are a lot that I really enjoyed about this book. As a reader, you get further glimpses into Lennie’s life through the snippets of poetry that Lennie writes throughout the story. Lennie writes on everything – coffee cups, tree trunks, lollipop wrappers. It is through her thoughts that both the reader and Joe come to understand Lennie’s seemingly destructive behavior and begin to see Lennie heal from the death of her sister. This sense of poetry stretched into the actual prose of the novel as well. In describing her grief and missing her sister, she states, “Me, like a small seashell with the loneliness of the whole ocean roaring invisibly within.” It is no surprise that though this is the author’s first novel, she is an accomplished poet. I love the language that she uses.
I also really enjoyed the portrayal of all the characters in the book. Though the characters, would sometimes do things that the reader could not necessarily understand, they were still likable and relate-able. Joe Fontaine was a dynamic, well-developed character and the chemistry between he and Lennie sizzled.
Finally, I loved how the author used the device of music to show Lennie’s growth and development. At first, Lennie was content to be second-chair clarinet. She was good but her music teacher felt that she was holding back. As she learned to work through her feelings and chip away at her true self, her musicality grew and changed. She was finally able to let go.
The one drawback of this book, perhaps, is that there was a lot going on plot-wise: Bailey dying, the relationship between Toby and Lennie, the relationship between Joe and Lennie, a deadbeat mother, the secrets Bailey hid, etc. However, the beauty of the story and Lennie and Joe’s relationship trumped any minor plotting issues. I highly recommend this book!
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age Recommendation: 14 and older