Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: The Sky is Everywhere

I'd like to preface this review by saying something: I HATE dead sister books. And dead best friend books. And any other book where the main point is the character coping with the loss of someone close to them. In my experience, the book becomes a two-hundred page stream of angst. And while I completely, 100% realize that a person in such circumstances in entitled to their share of angst, that doesn't mean I want to read a book about it.

Plus, they're depressing. There is a reason I'm afraid to read Going Bovine, even though Libba Bray is one of my favorite authors.

But, I read three raving reviews of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, so I added it to the pile of books I got from the library.

And before I get down to the detailed review, I'd just like to say that it is truly a gorgeous book. It made me smile as often as it made me cry. It might not have warmed me up to dead sister books, but the fact that there was another plot going on - the main character Lennie's conflicted feelings about new-boy Joe and sister's-boyfriend Toby - really made the weight of her grief bearable for the reader. Or, at least, for me.

Now, as neither dead sisters or boy-crazy teenaged girls are my favorite plots ever, there are really two things that sold this novel for me and made me keep writing. (Well, two and a half if you consider that Joe is wildly adorable.)

One was the writing. The other was Lennie.

Oh my God but this book is beautifully written. I've heard that it was originally a novel in verse, but even though the majority of it is now in prose, its poetic roots really show through, and not just in the many poems that Lennie writes and leaves lying around (it's kind of like you're stumbling around her town discovering her poetry, it's rather neat). With poetry, I feel like you have to be ten times more meticulous about every single word, and I think this whole book was written with that in mind. It's as though this entire book is one long prose poem, even if it isn't written in verse.

I also love it when the title comes into play in a big way in books, and that is clearly the case here. Can't tell you why, though. Spoilers.

Lennie was the second reason I stuck with and liked this book in spite of a plot that would not necessarily have grabbed me. I was left for an hour in a rather large library, so of course I came away with a huge stack of books. I read the first pages of all of them, and when I opened The Sky is Everywhere, it was almost as though Lennie grabbed me by the hand, pulled me into her world, made me a cup of tea and started telling me her story. She is just that realistic. I sympathized with her instantly, and not just because she was in a terrible situation. She was so well rounded - she's a character with many, many layers, and they slowly unfold throughout the novel in a really fantastic and interesting way.

In the end, I'm glad I read this book. It isn't one of the ones I want to reread - actually I will probably avoid rereading it. I don't like crying. But because of Lennie's character I am glad I bent my rule about dead sister books and gave this one a shot.



    and you know what's interesting? is i don't like sad or dead-people related books AT ALL. i stay far far far away from them. but i'd heard so many good things about the book i just couldn't NOT read it. and yet there was just something so heartbreakingly beautiful, something so unbelievably gorgeous about the story -- i think it's something that will stay with me forever.

    it's definitely the most powerful book i've read this year.

    love love love jandy nelson.

    she makes me want to be a better writer with every word.

    thanks for sharing your review!!


  2. You don't like dead sister books? how dare you!! yes, you've guessed it, my book has a dead sister in it. I digress.

    I have The Sky is Everywhere sitting on my nightstand. I will be getting to it shortly. Thanks for the review - and leaving out the spoilers (I'm terrible at that). :)

  3. Great review! I was on the fence about whether I should read this or not. I've heard about it but wasn't sure I'd like it. I, too, don't usually like "grief books". But after reading this I went and requested it from the library. It sounds interesting!

  4. Oh and btw, why are you afraid to read Going Bovine? AWESOME BOOK. You must read it. I was nervous too. I was a huge fan of Gemma Doyle and then I was like "WTF, mad cow disease?" But I thought it was great. :)

  5. Tahereh: Yes! This is definitely worth reading a depressing book for once. *hugs* Thanks for YOUR review, that's part of what made me read it!

    Angie: Heh, sorry. If there's another plot (like this book has) that I think is interesting I'll read yours!

    Brigid: I hope you like it! Also, I haven't read Going Bovine because I'm about 95% sure that the main character dies (I mean, he's got an incurable, fatal disease - even if he doesn't die in the book it'll still be depressing) and Libba Bray made me cry when I wasn't expecting it (The Sweet Far Thing... heh), and I'm not too eager to repeat the experience.

    I'll get around to it one day.