Saturday, November 6, 2010
Review: The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Lennie’s life is shattered when her older sister Bailey dies suddenly. Now faced with the scary realization that she doesn’t know who she is without Bailey, Lennie also finds herself torn between two very different guys. Toby is Bailey’s boyfriend, with whom Lennie feels a powerful connection of sadness and loss. Joe is the new boy at school, a genius musician whose megawatt smile makes Lennie feel like she can be someone she never was. Can Lennie reconcile the past with the present, her sister with herself, the girl she was with the girl she can be?
To an extent, I can understand why THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE is one of the most highly praised books of 2010. The poetry and the way it makes the characters seem to ache with loveliness….It’s easy to be hypnotized by what the book presents. But I seem to be one of just a handful for whom this book did not work.
Good things first. Nelson’s writing really is a work of art. She effortlessly twists words, emotions, and descriptions that are so common in YA lit they’re practically cliché into ribbons of beauty that you just want to remember forever. After all, how many books about teenage girls grieving after a loved one’s death have been written in the past year alone? And then how many have been written by a poet?
However, there was just something about Lennie that had me not connecting with her. I really had to wonder, most of the time that I was reading this, what about her was attractive to not just one, but two guys. Toby and Joe are reasonably well-rounded characters: Joe is a genuinely swoon-worthy musician character, while Toby’s angstiness is slightly harder to swallow. But either the love triangle aspect of this book felt contrived to make Lennie more desirable, or else Bailey’s death feels like a merely convenient premise to work Lennie’s romantic troubles.
For me, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE is yet another victim of the assumption that a sympathy-inducing issue can turn a book into a five-star classic. The writing is beautiful, and even the examination of the characters’ different ways of dealing with grief was good. I just didn’t feel a connection to Lennie, and thus, to the rest of the book.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - It's subjectively pretty, I think. It's a bit too abstract, too amorphous, for my liking. But many people seem to find nothing wrong with that!
Penguin / March 9, 2010 / Hardcover / 275pp. / $17.99