One day Lennie has a sister, a prominent place in the band as a clarinet player, a best friend – she’s basically a normal 17-year-old girl. The next day her older sister Bailey dies, and it changes everything.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is about Lennie’s journey as she is learning to cope with the unexpected and sudden loss of her sister. It leads her to make unwise choices in matters of the heart, as she struggles with her attraction to her sister’s boyfriend Toby. Complicating matters is the introduction of Joe Fontaine on the scene – the new boy, who only knows Lennie “after” – after the death of sister, not as one of two, the sisters who were as close as best friends, yet different as night and day.
Any good coming-of-age story, which this is, must put the teen through a crisis, and grief is the crisis that helps Lennie discover who she really is and who she is choosing to be. It’s sad, but all teens (all of any of us for that matter) experience sadness, whether it’s due to divorce, death, the end of a relationship, or even disappointment over a lost opportunity. I think that’s why this story seems so wonderfully ordinary and relatable.
I found this sullen, morose teen character to be strangely lovable. I understood her bad choices, and I ached with her when they caused her the trouble she deserved. I wished that I could have given her and her friends the wisdom that comes with many years of life, but I couldn’t. When you are a teen, you think that you know it all. You think that your few years of life give you all you need to make decisions and to judge another’s actions, but they don’t.
Eventually Lennie and the others around her figure this out, as Lennie figures out who she is – both with and without her sister and her mother.
The Sky is Everywhere is the story of things that all teenage girls face. We see Lennie deal with her fears, her emotions, her attraction to boys (two different boys), her talent, her friends, her desires for her future.
There is some sexual content and cursing, so it’s definitely a novel for teens (or for adults who enjoy Young Adult novels). I think that most parents of high schoolers would not object to the content, but I would say it’s definitely not for tween YA readers (at least not my tween YA reader). As always if you have any specific questions about content in any of our reviews, just send us an email or leave a comment and we’ll gladly give you more specific information.
The descriptive evocative language reminds me what it is I love about middle grade and young adult writing. I also love the honest true contemporary teen voice, and for that reason, I am giving it the 5 Star Read label.
Audiobook review: The narrator Julia Whelan’s understated straightforward reading is perfect to tell this story of a 17-year-old girl grappling with grief and moral dilemmas and the general angst of being a 17-year-old girl. The end and beginning of each CD also had a slight overlap (a sentence or two), which I really liked, for confirming that was indeed where I left off. Clarinet music, appropriate to the plot, was used as a transition at the beginning and end of each CD.
Jennifer Donovan has a fantasy-loving 11-year-old daughter (who will not be reading this book for a couple of years), and a non-fiction reading 6-year-old son. She blogs about their life in Connecticut at Snapshot.