Author: Jandy Nelson
Release date: 7th June 2010 UK (debut novel)
Genre: Realism / Issues / Contemporary Teen Life
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Amazon:
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, with a nearly magical grin. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But the two can't collide without Lennie's world exploding...
The Sky is Everywhere is a soulful, touching, heartbreaking and acutely truthful story of a girl who is grieving for her dead sister. Lennie's world is broken into a million pieces after the sudden death of her older sister Bailey. They were two rings on a finger, the two shells of a clam, two arrows shot from the same bow. Lennie's life is suddenly transformed by a huge absence. Every day is a day that Bailey will never see. The pain of Lennie's grief is raw and believeable. She finds it difficult to talk about her loss with her family and feels that the only other person who can understand her grief is Bailey's boyfriend Toby. Through their grief they find a physical connection which leads to them kissing, Lennie is left burning with shame and guilt because she has betrayed her sister. But there is also another boy in this story -- Joe Fontaine -- who makes Lennie's heart leap with his trumpet playing and her legs turn to jelly with his long eyelashes. This new found love also burdens Lennie because surely she should not be able to feel such joy in a world that is devoid of Bailey?
The story mesmerised me from start to finish. It was the sort of book that you just fall straight into and are their holding Lennie's hand from the very beginning. You feel crumpled up like the scraps of paper she writes on and raw like skin that has been scratched over and over. Immediately you connect with her and want to help her to find a way through the pain. Then there is Gram who is a rather eccentric and exceptionally talented gardener. And Uncle Big who has the strangest moustache that I have ever read about and also an addiction to asking women to marry him. They are an adorably odd family all fighting to find a ray of light to guide them through their grief.
One of the wonderful things about this book is the interweaving of poetry and prose. Lennie writes her feelings and questions and anguish on to anything she can get her hands on -- sweets wrappers, her shoes, a tree trunk. It is these moments of concise and direct emotion that really moved me and wrapped me up in their bittersweet truth. The happiness of the memory. The Agony of knowing you are never going to see the person again.
Despite the sadness and pain that marks this story, there is still a warmth from the love that Lennie experiences. First love after such great a loss tastes like just picked strawberries -- so unbelievably sweet and juicy. This is such a remarkable book. It draws grief in a truthful light. It made me sob out my sorrow but it also made me smile because there is always hope, you only have to look at the sky.
Thanks to Walker Books for sending me the book to review.