The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (NY: Speak, 2010).
Lennie feels lost without her sister Bailey, who died suddenly. Or at least she doesn't feel like herself, and she's not even sure what herself is anymore. For instance, why does she feel like kissing boys all the time? Even at the funeral! Her best friend says that's one normal reaction to the loss of a loved one--wanting to connect to other people--but mostly Lennie wants to be alone and pretend that Bailey will be home any second, will just pop back into her room, and start telling Lennie about play practice and her boyfriend Toby. Her Gram and Big (her dope smoking uncle) seem equally lost in their grief. But life has to go on, and Lennie's friend Sarah tries to drag her back to life, which means school, which means band, which means the new guy Joe Fontaine, who is an amazing musician. He seems to help all of them find a new balance in their lives. Love blooms even as Lennie struggles with feelings about Toby, of all people. Yes, they're helping each other cope with Bailey's death, but why is there such a sexual facet to their comforting of each other? And shouldn't she feel guilty for moving forward since that means moving away from Bailey? Through all of this, Lennie writes poems about Bailey and her feelings and leaves them scattered all over town on bits of paper, shoes, benches, walls.
Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one, or can imagine such a loss, will relate to Lennie's confusion and odd actions. How can it be such a beautiful sunny day when the loved one is gone forever? How can a joke be funny, anything be funny, without the loved one? Lennie has to deal with her tumultuous grief and all sorts of conflicting feelings, including the odd connection with Toby that makes her feel both guilty and comforted. Then there's Joe--who makes her insanely happy in a way she never thought possible, then crushingly sad because she can't share it with her sister.
Nelson captures all the conflicting emotions in captivatingly beautiful prose and Lennie's own poetic snippets. The emotions are raw and real, and the situations make sense even in their randomness because they mirror the seeming randomness of a senseless death. Death can be right around any corner, but so can love. The possibilities, like the sky, are endless. You just have to reach out and grab them. Highly recommended for ages 14 & up. Sexual situations, intense emotions, alcohol, drugs, language.
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