Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere


After reading Sarah Wylie's post about two of her favorite recent reads, I immediately logged into the library and requested both books. Instead of actual books, I ended up with these cool MP3 player things with the audio book loaded into it. I lost my iPod last year so I was super-pumped to have something to listen to at the gym (even it was a tear-jerker of a book more likely to force me into the fetal position than burn calories). Anyways, ever since I began the book Friday, I've been walking around with earphones plugged in my ears. The sound of my normal life has been muted and I've been thrust into Lennie's world. And let me tell you, it's been heartbreaking.

Here's a bit about THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE:

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 older 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.

Now, I'm a sucker for sad books, especially sad books mixed with romance. Add in a sister or two and I'm putty. But a warning to all writers. Jandy Nelson will make you feel like a total hack. Her sentences are poetic, each word carefully chosen, each line contributing to this beautiful, intricate, masterpiece of a book. It is exactly that: Art. And, it's her debut. As I was listening, I found myself loving it just as much (maybe even *gasp* a tiny bit more) than BEFORE I FALL. Here's a few reasons why...
  • I'm not quite sure how she did it, but Nelson had me crying (literally tears streaming down my face crying, at the gym mind you) and then laughing a few paragraphs later. Lennie's grief is thrust in front of the reader and it is real and authentic and raw. But her character still manages to shine through, granting you moments where you forget the great sadness. It feels like life.
  • Nelson's secondary characters shouldn't be called secondary. It's a crime actually. She builds characters with spider-leg eyelashes-Bat-Bat-Bat, booming thou-shalt-Ten-Commandments kind of voices and special laughs named Aunt Gooch because they arrive like an aunt with pink hair, a suitcase full of balloons and no intention of leaving (don't quote me on that, remember I listened to the book!).
  • Each chapter contains a poem written by Lennie that offers a window into the relationship she shared with her sister. A poet at heart, I loved these excerpts.
  • This book taps into the aftermath of losing someone--the fear that accompanies a loss because all of the sudden you realize the worst can happen and if it happened once, it can happen again. And the not knowing who you've become after that somebody is gone (obviously Nelson says this better, so forgive me). But everyone can relate to this.
  • Lennie's Uncle Big explains that the only way around this is through (again, much more beautifully said) and I hope this stays with me. I've always marveled at the strength of others as they work their way through tragedy--they must have had the same realization. I was inspired by this.
The bottom line? I loved the book. Absolutely, positively loved every word, every page, every scene. I will never forget it. Books like this make me want to be a better writer.

If  you haven't read it, grab it, if you have, what did you think?

25 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

Sounds like a powerful story. Combine that with beautiful poetic prose and you've really got a tale that will stick with you.

I haven't read this one but keep seeing it mentioned. Normally this kind of thing is not really for me but I may have to pick it up now.

Would it be appropriate to share with my daughter who is 14 going on 30?

Christina Lee said...

This one is SOOO on the top of my list (I so wanted it for book club, remember). It's not available on Kindle (grumble) so I'll have to *shocker* go to the library or bookstore! ;o

Jen said...

I'm trying to get to it, but I'm currently drowning in a sea of fabulous books... you thought that was possible?!

Jessica said...

This does not sound like a book I would normally read, but you've made me interested. I'll have to see if I can find a copy somewhere, an audio version would be even better. :)

Lisa and Laura said...

I read this book (as opposed to listened to the audio) and I have to say I loved being able to read the words. I'm sure they sounded just as gorgeous coming out of a readers mouth, but there were a few lines I read over and over and over again. I'd go back and correct some of the lines that Laura quotes on here, but I've already passed the book along to a friend. I couldn't wait to share it with others!

Great review, Laur.

Meredith said...

Alright, that's it, I'm going to buy this book today. It sounds incredible, and I've got a Borders coupon!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh my. Your review makes me want to read this right away. I love a powerful tale told in beautiful language.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Okay will have to check this one out thanks! Hmmm, I read more books by word of mouth than anything.

Katie said...

I rushed out to get this after you tweeted about it and the bookstore didn't have it!!!!!!! So I ordered it on Amazon and can't WAIT to get home.

I am really trying to work on being more poetic in my second book and less short, sharp, and commercial so I am so excited to read this!

sraasch said...

She sold me at the last line of her summary. The celestial bodies colliding...BEAUTIFUL imagery. Swooning already.

Jessica said...

I didn't think I would like a book more than Before I Fall this year, but by page 10 I was wanting to lick the words right off of this book. SO amazing. I loved it so, so much, and I'm recommending it to everyone.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Okay. I am TOTALLY convinced. I will read this book. Who is supplying the kleenex? :-)

Elana Johnson said...

I'm going to have to get this one again. I actually had it and started it and...yeah. Returned it without finishing. So I guess I better get it again.

Krispy said...

Okay, your review just sold me. Putting it on my library request list now. I was super tempted after Tahereh's review, but I guess I needed more of a push.

Tahereh said...

this book KILLED ME. KILLED ME.

i am like, AFRAID TO TOUCH IT FOR FEAR OF RUINING IT. jandy nelson is a GENIUS.

a genius.
a genius.

<3 you for loving this book.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Ooo, I bought a copy after Sarah raved about it and I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Sounds like I need to move it to the top of my TBR pile.

Lisa_Gibson said...

This is hands-down one of the best books I've ever read. I was laughing, then crying, and sighing through it all. It made me want to crawl through the pages and hang out with Lennie,her Grandma and even Uncle Big. To smell the flowers and walk through the forest. And Aunt Gooch was one of my favorite parts too. I'm with you, I loved this book.

Tara McClendon said...

Sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Solvang Sherrie said...

One of my critique partners says this is her new favorite book so I'm going to have to read it :)

Maggie said...

http://juniper-breeze.blogspot.com/2010/05/oh-dear-me.html

That's the review I made after reading this book.

OMG DIDNT IT MAKE YOUR LIFE? I loved it so much. It's one of my favorites (as is Before I Fall!). I'm glad you liked it though! I about went through the roof when I read the tweets about you guys reading it. I had to do some major restraining not to harrass you asking how much you loved it...

Jemi Fraser said...

That's one I'd have to read hidden alone in my bedroom - it isn't pretty when I start to sob... :)

paulgreci said...

Sounds like a powerful, poetically told story. Thanks!

Lori W. said...

I just read this book last week, and I remember Sarah's post. I felt the same way re: thinking I should just quit writing right now because I'll never be able to tell a story like that. It's a beautiful book, a new favorite.

Hardygirl said...

I can't wait to read this one. I've been hearing a lot about it. Good to see that Katie's ordered it--I'll borrow hers!

sf

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm going to wait until the end of summer for this one. I only want HAPPY stories this summer. I'm still recovering from the last one you recommended. ;)