11 November 2014

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Well. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I loved Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. How could I not?

SKY is Nelson's first book, and readers of the blog will know that her second, I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, pierced my heart so badly I still haven't recovered from it. I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN might just be my favorite book this year.

SKY is full of the same things that made me love SUN so much: amazingly beautiful writing, heartbreakingly honest characters, an intensely artistic sensibility, and the most breathtaking, insanely awesome metaphors ever.

SKY tells the story of sixteen-year-old Lennie (Lennon - her parents were hippies), a girl still reeling from the death of her older sister due to a fatal, undiagnosed heart problem. The novel picks up just as Lennie is returning to school from her bereavement. She's cut herself from everyone - Gram, her grandmother, who raised her; Big, her absent mother's brother; Toby, her sister Bailey's boyfriend; and Sarah, her best friend.

And so begins Lennie's journey toward healing. I have a soft spot for this kind of narrative. I don't know what it is about me. I've never experienced the sort of tragic loss Lennie has, but I empathize with her so deeply. I like to read about healing and I like to write about healing.

Part of that healing is Joe, the new boy in school who capture's Lennie's interest (and she captures his, too, as quickly becomes apparent). It's easy to see parallels between Joe and Oscar from SUN - the foreign air, the painful earnestness, even their looks seem a bit similar (or at least they were in my imagination). And you can see in Lennie's family echoes of what will become Noah and Jude's own family.

Anyway, Lennie and Joe. Nelson writes their romance with so much sweet innocence and passion, and a frank understanding of how it feels to be young and in love, to experience your first sexual longings even as you're not sure you're ready to give in to them.

Then there's Toby. As it says in the book blurb, Lennie is torn between Joe and Toby, because Toby represents such a strong link to her sister. At one point Lennnie even says: if you put her grief and Toby's grief together, it's like it recreates one whole Bailey. Paraphrasing, I know. Forgive me.

Anyway, you can see the train wreck coming from a mile away, it's a nail-biter. I had to put the book down a time or two and take a break (never a long one!) just because I was so worried about what was going to happen. SUN was like a thriller at times; SKY was suspense. I so desperately wanted things to come out okay, and I was so scared they weren't.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE was lyrical and warm, devastating and redeeming, and I can't wait for my own personal copy to arrive from my local independent bookseller (I read a library copy - don't know why I bothered, I knew I would love it, but policy is policy if I don't want to bust the bank buying books).

I really hope Jandy Nelson comes to Kansas City some time for an event so I can get her to sign my books.

I also want her to write a crossover between THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE and I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, because I like to imagine them taking place a few towns away from each other and, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon, I Want To Go To There.