“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Sky Is Everywhere • YA fiction

The Sky Is Everwhere
Coming March 9, 2010! Dial  Ages 14 and up
This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block.  Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.
Story:  Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery sister Bailey.  But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center 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, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent.  For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it.  but just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.
Story behind the story: The Sky Is Everywhere is Jandy Nelson's first novel and she talks about where it came from: "Lennie crashed into my psyche and came fully formed, with her copy of Wuthering Heights and her clarinet in her hand. It was like she crashed through the roof. I knew that her sister had died, and I knew the triangle was there, with Joe and Toby. I saw it as a movie in a way. The first thing that came was the girl scattering the poems everywhere and I knew she was grief-stricken. In the inception was California. I invented this river town, though I felt like I know the area where it was, with the redwood forest, and this rushing river was part of the emotional landscape of the story."  

I'm going to lay it on the line here and share that this book struck me very personally, as I too, lost one of my sisters suddenly and unexpectedly; I felt that Nelson expressed so perfectly much of what I've experienced and helped me to explain to others what I was/am feeling.  She explained in an interview that "One of the reasons I wanted to write the story was I lost someone very close to me very suddenly, and I was blown away by the experience of grief and how transformational it is. It's a cataclysmic event but it takes you to the beating heart of the world and the preciousness of life. Loss can be so huge and almost geological--at one point Lennie talks about "tectonic plates shifting."

But I also think it's the sort of emotional journey that can make you live in a more hopeful way. Not that you get over it or even come out the other side. But that idea that grief and love are conjoined brings you to a place of peace--for me it does. Grief is a measure of how much we love and how much we can love in the future.
"  I couldn't have said it better (thus why I'm not an author!).

Read more about and with author Jandy Nelson.

“Okay. I admit it. I’ve got a huge crush on this book—it’s beautiful, brilliant, passionate, funny, sexy and deep. Come to think of it, I might even want to marry this book…” —Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn’t Know

“Full of heart, quirky charm, and beautiful writing, The Sky Is Everywhere simply shines.” —Deb Caletti, National Book Award Finalist and author of The Secret Life of Prince Charming.

“Jandy Nelson completely won me over through Lennie, whose story of grief somehow manages to be an enchantment, a celebration, a romance—without forsaking the rock-hard truths of loss.” —Sara Zarr, National Book Award Finalist and author of Story of a Girl and Sweethearts

“WOW. I sobbed my eyes out and then laughed through the tears. I have not fallen in love with a story and its characters like this in a long time. Stunning, heartbreaking, hilarious. A story that shakes the Earth.” —An Na, Printz Award Winner and National Book Award Finalist

The Sky Is Everywhere evokes the intensity of desire and agony of heartache with breathtaking clarity. This beautifully written story will leave an indelible impression upon your soul.” -Susane Colasanti, author of When It Happens

“Jandy Nelson (remember that name), has written a YA novel with the best voice I have read since Laurie Halse Andersen’s Speak.” —Jane Yolen

Watch the trailer. And then read it and see for yourself.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


BrittLit said...

Although I didn't recieve a review copy through the Picnic Basket I still would like to share what I thought of the book.It is certainly a 5 - Strongly recommended.
When Lennie's sister dies she doesn't know what to do. Their mother had left early on because of "the restless gene"; she is wandering somewhere in the world. Lennie and Bailey were stuck living with their grandmother and uncle, not that they minded. But now, with Bailey dead, the whole house is a heavy atmosphere of mourning and Lennie feels like no one can understand. Until Toby, Bailey's boyfriend, comes to their house one day. Toby and Lennie, feel that they alone can share the grief of having been so close to and having loved Bailey so much. Then when Joe, a new kid in town, comes into the picture, he might be just the thing to help Lennie out of her slump; only she can put the pieces of her life back together.

This was such an amazing and powerful novel. Hoorah for a debut. Jandy Nelson crafts the perfect balance of love and loss. A few things did bother me, one was in the second sentence Lennie says that all she can think about now is sex, yet that doesn't really seem to be the case. I realize that maybe she thinks about it more than she used to but I thought it was going to be all about sex. I am very glad this was not the case, I don't think I would have liked Lennie as much if she had been a sex-crazed twit. The other thing was, at one point, Lennie and her friend Sarah met at this secluded swimming hole and hung out in the nude. I personally have never hung out in the nude with my friends. Do people actually do this? I don't think it is necessarily wrong, but I had just never heard of any one having done that. I really loved the relationships in this novel. You could feel the desire and passion dripping on every page interspersed with all the sorrow-filled longing for Bailey to return. I enjoyed all the characters and their quirks so much. It made each person that much more real to have them with odd little habits and whatnot. I loved Joe, he was such an amazing character. I loved his charisma and his charm. Joe did not seem to let the little things get to him. This was such an honest account of emotions and that is what made this novel so stirring. I had to keep reading because it felt so good to read every page feeling my heart swell and ache with Lennie's many trials. I also absolutely loved Lennie's poems. She would write them on whatever surface she could find and then just abandoned them for someone else to come across. So I recommend this to all of you my readers that crave realistic fiction. This is not a book to be missed. I will keep my eye out for Jandy's sophomore work.

First Line:
"Gram is worried about me."

Favorite Line:
"My sister dies over and over again, all day long."

loonyhiker said...

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would give this book a 3.

This book is about a girl whose sister died and how she handles her grief. While dealing with her grief, she is also dealing with relationships with a new boy at school, her sister’s boyfriend, her best friend, and her grandmother. I too lost my older sister when I was in high school so I understood the strong feelings of loss in the book and could relate a lot to many of the situations. During this traumatic time, relationship lines get blurry and confusing. It was a very sad and moving story though and well worth reading.

The only problem I had about the story was the references to sex. Maybe because I live in the Bible belt and I can see many conservative parents objecting to this book in schools. References to premarital sex and teenage pregnancy were glossed over. I’m not sure these sexual references were necessary for the plot of the book. I could see readers enjoying this if they read it on their own but I do not see this being used as a classroom tool.

Catherine said...

I've recently received my copy of "The Sky is Everywhere" and I'm having a tough time reading. I like the story line, but I have problems following it. It jumps from these random notes that Lennie leaves to what is going on in her life and I can't seem to find the connection.

Working with kids this age, I see many struggle with what Lennie is trying to work through. But I also see a lot of cliches about what teenagers are supposedly dealing with, Lennie and Toby's shared loss and physical feelings.

Maybe it's because I'm an adult that I can't seem to get into it. I'll let my students read it and get their feedback. For me, this rates a 3. I can't see using it as part of a classroom lesson.

Catherine Yezak, Special Ed. Teacher, Marquette Area Public Schools, Marquette, Michigan

Christina said...

"The Sky is Everywhere" was a good book. I liked how it portrayed the grief process in a realistic way. The ending was kind of predictable (girl gets boy) but nice.

I'm not sure I would recommend it to readers under the age of 17 though. Too many of our young girls are receiving messages that sex at an early age is acceptable and I wouldn't want to reinforce that message to them through reading.

I would rate this book a 5 for older teen readers.

Anonymous said...

5 out of 5 is not a high enough rating for the fascinating debut novel by Jandy Nelson entitled, “The Sky is Everywhere.”
Lennie or as Joe (the new Fontaine brother and guitar, clarinet aficionado in town) calls her John Lennon, is an amazing clarinetist who recently lost her older sister Bailey from a sudden heart ailment, after being abandoned as a small child by her mother. Raised by a loving eccentric grandmother and slightly marriage addicted uncle, Lennie learns to work through her grief of losing her sister, and finding love for the first time while coming to grips with her mother’s abandonment.
Nelson’s novel is a true masterpiece. Personally, I have not read as well written a novel for young adults ( or even adults) in years. Entire excerpts of the book can be extracted for in-depth discussions in classrooms or just among friends. So many passages were poignant, yet insightful and completely able to stand on their own on their basis of emotional and intellectual appeal. I suggest that this book not only be considered as a must for anyone’s picnic but also be a must for any library shelf.

Meg McCormick said...

This review was written by my student, 14 yrs old and in 8th grade who enjoyed the book immensely. (I did also but her review was a great writing exercise!)

I feel very privileged to have been able to read the not only phenomenal, but inspiring and heart touching booked named The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. The Sky is Everywhere is an all encompassing study of grief, the strength of a sisterly bond, the power of attraction and love and ultimately the importance of being true to yourself. In the book a girl named Lennie lost her older sister Bailey, who she looked up to and admired dearly. Throughout the book she was dealing with trying to live, breathe, laugh, and love without her sister, and also knowing that Bailey would never be able to do the same, didn’t make it any easier for her to move on. There are two guys who make her life a little bearable: Toby, her sister's boyfriend/fiance/reason why she was pregnant and one of the only ones who understands what she's going through, and Joe Fountaine, a musical genius new to town that is able to distract her from her intense grief. But both make her feel guilty about moving on with her life, and will force her to somehow reconcile with her grief and learn to live without Bailey. I loved the way at the beginning it started with the dying ‘Lennie Plant’ and ended with her throwing it over the cliff because she would no longer let a plant tell her that she was dying on the inside. Also while she was grieving and falling in love, she ruined her relationships with many people that were close to her but after she ‘came back to planet earth’ and realized what she had done, she fixed it all, replenished and renewed her friendships with people such as Gram and Joe. I’m glad she was able to set her relationship correct with Toby and establish him as her brother, instead of the boy she kisses every time she feels lost and sad. I enjoyed the way she would right little notes about her life with and without Bailey who’s love never prevailed; she wrote the notes on little scraps of paper, candy rappers, and staff line papers instead of in a journal, so in a way she was writing down her burdens and memories, crumpling them up, burying them, letting them be blown away by the wind, and rained on by the clouds- her thoughts and memories were free just as Bailey was.

-Kendyle W.

Lemon the Duck said...

A great debut novel. My favorite part was the poetic language and imagery. I keep reading certain passages over and over again.
Lennie's loss and confusion felt authentic and relatable, but not all scenes felt equally authentic.
This story, because of some of it's content is definitely targeted towards the older YA audience.
I rate this book a 4 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine a better plot, character set, or background for a story like The Sky is Everywhere. Nelson deftly weaves elements of the setting (colors, flowers, nature itself) into the fabric of the story; they're nearly a set of supporting characters.

The reality is that everyone deals with grief differently - and yes, it is a selfish act, as Gram pointed out. What a simple yet eloquent means of merging the oft-written coming of age story with one that deals with coping with a tragedy.

Nelson uses poetic, musical themes throughout narration and dialogue, finally tying together Lennie's poems at the end. I am constrained to giving this work a 5 but believe it deserves an 8 - so off the charts good that it belongs not just in picnic baskets but in the finest French bistros of Paris.

Carolyn A.
Young Adult Librarian