by Jandy Nelson
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The Sky is Everywhere is Nelson’s debut novel, but I’ve already read her second book, I’ll Give You the Sun, which was stronger than this one. That said, this book falls solidly into my new favorite category: “book hangovers of teen love and lust.” Much like IGYTS, the characters struggle with love and grief and an absent mother.
Lennie (short for Lennon, as in John) is suffering the recent unexpected death of her beloved older sister, Bailey. The girls were raised by their grandmother; their mother abandoned them as small children. As Lennie finally learns to grieve, she finds out that among her sister’s secrets is a notebook full of her efforts to find their mother. But the main story is that Lennie finds a weird solace in the arms of her sister’s boyfriend, Toby, even as a new boy in town (whom every other girl is falling over) is falling for her. Lennie has to keep Joe from finding out how she and Toby comfort each other, unless she can bring herself to stop first. When everything falls to shit, as inevitably happens in life, two things help to resolve it, one of which I saw coming and the other I did not at all anticipate.
One really interesting thing about this book is that Lennie, the narrator, gives us two contrasting views of her physical looks. The first view is that she is plain, unpretty, especially in contrast to her sister, who seems incredible in all ways. This is Lennie’s view of herself, wearing unflattering clothes and hair in a ponytail. We are right with her when she describes how shocked she is that both Toby and Joe think she’s beautiful. Two other interesting themes are music and poetry, and apparently Nelson has an MFA in poetry.
Other books in the “book hangovers of teen love and lust” category have similar scenes of first kisses. This is definitely on the purer, more Eleanor and Park-esque, end of things than the more in-depth, mature, I’ll Give You the Sun end. Incidentally, I do not recommend attempting to sleep after staying up way past one’s bedtime reading this book (or any other book in this category). It will almost surely give you a book hangover.