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