Monday, May 2, 2011

Book review: The Sky is Everywhere

The Sky is Everywhere
And then grief was captured and bottled in the soul of a beautiful companion pony who was more of a racehorse than she ever thought she was.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (Walker Books)
17-year old Lennie Walker is a Heathcliff-obsessed bookworm and music geek.

She's also younger sister to the vivacious and sparkly Bailey - and is more than content to follow and live in the shadow of the sibling she adores.

When Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie's world loses its safety thread... and the girl, who has always been happy to be backstage, is suddenly thrust into the central hemisphere of her own life.

Weighed down by the gravity of her grief, Lennie doesn't know which way to go and in the midst of her confusion, she suddenly and unexpectedly finds herself having to deal with the attentions of two very different boys.

Toby is the boy who was Bailey's boyfriend. He's also the boy whose grief is an echoing symphony of her own. 

Joe, on the other hand, is the new boy (from Paris) in town with a heartbreakingly beautiful grin, gorgeous long lashes and a musical talent that makes Lennie's soul sing.

For Lennie, the two couldn't be more opposite to one another. One serves to take her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it.

And in the midst of all the chaos, confusion and resounding notes of desolation,  the paths of Lennie and both boys will impact and collide, sending Lennie on a journey of new awakenings and discovery; teaching her that moving on doesn't necessarily mean letting go.

Review:

How do you review the world's most beautiful book?

And how do you find a way to capture the fragile essence, the melancholy nuances and the heart and soul of a girl so crippled by her grief that it robs you, the reader, of every single word you've learnt and uttered throughout your entire life?

How do you capture that on paper?


The truth is you can't. You can't because Jandy Nelson already has.

I should have realised that when I purchased the book in its beautiful, bound journal format (which is the UK edition by the way) that I would be dealing with an extraordinary book.

When I first opened the pages and saw that the font was blue and that there were random and interspersed notes of scribbled and handwritten poetry scattered throughout the book (on pages that were made to reflect what Lennie's thoughts were written on at a specific point in time), well, I was in instant book love.

Never in my entire life have I been so swept away by such tremendous feelings of raw and uncensored grief.

The rush of sweet affection, tangled lust and achingly tumultuous emotions made me weep with the sheer force of the beautiful characters, the phenomenal writing and the poignant themes of love and loss that is captured so spectacularly within this book.

I rarely say this about books, but if there is one book that I wish I had written, then it is this one.

It's the book that I can't believe I've only read now and it definitely has earned itself a top spot in my favourite reads of all time list.

Lennie is a character I love very deeply.

She's a bookworm, a music geek, a die-hard romantic and beautiful poet at heart.  She's the kind of character that I wish I was and like to pretend to be.

Most of all, she's the kind of character whose remarkable soul is so big that trying to recapture her in a book review is just too small of a place for her to live in.

From the very beginning of the book, her beautiful voice lures you in and compels you to remain with her as she journeys her way through her:

- devastating loss,
- her various different relationships with the people just as affected by Bailey's death as she was, her sexual awakening and confusion about her feelings for two different boys and;
-learning to come to terms with the fact that Bailey's no longer there.

Her grief is a tangible and visible force that grips you, shakes you to the core and refuses to let you go.

 You'll ache for the girl who has always seen herself as a companion pony to her sister's racehorse status and you'll weep for the girl who says that "the world is not a safe place" and who scatters poetry in the wind in order to keep the wild and untamed spirit of her sister alive.

And then?

Well your heart will just break a little more when, Toby, sweet Toby with his Leonine features, makes her confused heart thump just a little louder and whose grief serves as a magnetic force that she can't help but gravitate towards.

And you'll swoon when she meets Joe Fontaine - the boy who bat.bat.bats his long luscious lashes at her and whose guitar notes change the colour of the flowers.

He's the boy whose music takes her out of her sorrow and who makes her mouth curve into a smile even when it's the last thing she wants to do.

What makes this book so wonderful, is the fact that the emotions and the love-triangle were both captured in such an authentically realistic manner.

I've really started to abhor the kind of love triangle where the ultimate choice is made rather obvious, but The Sky is Everywhere really keeps you guessing for a good while. It's just that authentic.

Of course, being a sucker for musically talented fictional boys, Joe certainly earned himself a spot amongst my top favourite fiction crushes.  But that's not to say I didn't love Toby - because i did. 

And yes, Lennie probably makes a few mistakes that she really could have avoided, but it those things only served to show what an immensely vulnerable, hurting, grieving and songbird soul she is.

And it's those moments that really show how her grief has thrown her for a loop and a half.

This marvellous book also boasts a host of wonderfully eccentric characters (namely Lennie's whimsical garden-keeper Gran and her pot-smoking Uncle Big), who are each trying to deal with their grief while trying their best to reach out to the girl who is determined to isolate her emotions from all of the world.

I wish I could tell you in a detailed account how much these characters, each in their own way, crept in my heart, but I believe that The Sky is Everywhere really just speaks for itself. 

In essence, this book isn't just about loss  - it's about love, it's about the life-giving force of family ties and it's about embracing life in all its glorious, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching and colourful splendour.

At the end of it all, I think this quote (It's my new favourite quote) sums it up best:"Life's a freaking mess. In fact, I'm going to tell Sarah we need to start a new philosophical movement: messessentialism instead of existentialism: For those who revel in the essential mess that is life.

"Because Gram's right, there's not one truth ever, just a bunch of stories, all going on at once, in our heads, in our hearts, all getting in the way of each other. It's all a beautiful calamitous mess. It's like the day Mr. James took us into the woods and cried triumphantly, "That's it! That's it!" to the dizzying cacophony of soloing instruments trying to make music together. That is it."
- Jandy Nelson, The Sky is Everywhere

9 comments:

IvaliceAlliance said...

Seriously, your review makes me want to hug you! I'm so in love with this book that I'll never understand anyone who will criticize it. I suggest you read On The Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. That one was also amazing.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

Wow! The worlds most beautiful book? High praise indeed, and you wrote a beautiful review! I need to read this one ASAP. It sounds like something I will adore! Thanks for the wonderful review, Tammy! :)

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

Excellent review! I've tried to read this one, but I was on a paranormal kick and didn't quite get into it. I really need to try again based on your review :)

Straylights said...

I'm so jealous of your edition that you got! I want blue font and all that other good stuff. :( not fair!

Jan von Harz said...

I have read other reviews for this book, but never one with such emotion and passion. I loved this review and you have totally convinced me that I had to read this book.

Jenny said...

"The rush of sweet affection, tangled lust and achingly tumultuous emotions made me weep with the sheer force of the beautiful characters, the phenomenal writing and the poignant themes of love and loss that is captured so spectacularly within this book."

WOW Tammy. Just wow. I just bought this one over the weekend because I've heard it's amazing, and your unbelievable review has only confirmed it further:) Can't wait to read!

Blueicegal ♥ said...

I completely get you Tammy. I was a whirlwind of emotions when I read it some time back. So emotional sad, and happy. I just about got through the review, I felt that nothing that I wrote could ever do it justice. The book is just beautiful so heart rendering beautiful. Thanks for sharing your lovely thoughts with us, I can see that it really affected you too, and I'm glad.

Blueicegal ♥ said...

Here's my review just in case you want to see :)

http://blueicegal-fantasy4eva.blogspot.com/2010/07/sky-is-everywhere.html

Aisle B said...

Reading your review enforced all the reasons why I had to fast track this one to my door.

Pixie fairy you've done it again... rendered me speechless and convinced that this is something not to be missed. Will pre order ASAP.