Saturday, November 6, 2010

Review: The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Tags: YA, grief, death, sisters, love triangle, music


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.

Similar Authors
Kristina McBride
Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Plot: 3/5

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

Copy bought.


  1. I took issue with the love triangle too. I particularly disliked that Lennie strung Joe and Toby along, was aware of it, and continued to do so. I felt more sorry for the guys at some points than Lennie, I must say. Thanks for your honest review, I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one who didn't have a completely glowing reaction to this book!

  2. I really connected to Lennie, which meant this novel worked very well for me. I loved how raw and honest it was concerning the dealing with grief issue. Sorry it couldn't charm you as completely (and surprisingly) as it did me!

  3. I'm in the same handful! I thought the writing was gorgeous, but Lennie was just too much for me.

  4. For me, I think the love triangle was half genuine (with Joe) and half developed out of a need to connect with something that reminded her of Bailey (Toby). Toby and Lennie would never have come together under other circumstances, but because of what happened to them, they felt they needed to connect. It wasn't Lennie or anything about her that brought them together - it was Bailey. With Joe, it was legitimate.

  5. I loved this one. The writing was beautiful (as you said) and while we didn't get a truly in depth look at Lennie I thought the plot of the book really was more about grief and the events surrounding it than the characters consumed by it. Sorry it didn't work for you :(

  6. I fell in love with this book, mostly due to the gorgeous writing and how Jandy Nelson presented the characters' grieving processes. I see what you mean about Lennie and the unbelievability of the love triangle, though. Still, it's definitely one of my top two or three 2010 books!

  7. I felt the same way as Heather about the love triangle, but I can see where you're coming from as well. The writing did absolutely entrance me, as well -- I'm sorry you couldn't get as caught up in it!

    As for the cover. I do like the US one, but I'm absolutely in love with my Aussie/UK version of this book. The cover's all cloudy blue with white writing, and the format on the inside is exquisite. Blue font with all of Lennie's poems done on photographs -- like an image of a cardboard cup with her words scrawled across it. Soooo beautiful. Totally added to my experiencing this book as a work of art.

  8. I've followed you for awhile and always appreciate your honest and thoughtful reviews. I read this book awhile ago before hearing a lot of hype about it, and was pleasantly suprised by it, but books that I hear great things about are too often a disappointment, and your critiques are totally valid. There are so many love triangles in YA lit just aren't compelling and/or believable enough - I'm still on the fence about whether this book pulls it off or not.

  9. Bummer you didn't connect with Lennie. I really liked this book. I recently read The Replacement, and I didn't enjoy it much b/c I couldn't connect to any of the characters.

  10. I also liked The Sky is Everywhere, liked everything about it but especially the amazing writing. But I know what you mean about not connecting with a book. I absolutely hated ROOM, which is getting all sorts of rave reviews! From experts! Totally didn't work for me.
    Your lists are fascinating and I appreciate all the hard work you've done to present them on your blog.


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