Speak, 288 pages
"Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town. While Toby can't see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it's up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs-without Bailey."
This book, similar to Jellicoe Road, is very, and I repeat, very underrrated. I don't even know how I came upon it, but I have a soft spot for contemporary novels and The Sky Is Everywhere exceeds all the expectations I had for it. It was a beautifully crafted story with lovely writing, lovely characters, and a lovely plot. I really feel as if I cannot say enough nice things about this book and people need to hear more about it because it's far too under the radar!
The plot takes off at a very dark place. Lennie (short for her real name, Lennon- and yes, she was named after the famous John Lennon) is grieving over the loss of her older sister Bailey. Bailey died from a fatal arrhythmia (basically an irregular heartbeat) practicing for her role in Romeo and Juliet. Her death was sudden and completely out of nowhere and Lennie struggles with coping. Bailey has always been the "brighter" sister in Lennie's eyes: very outgoing, animated, and full of life. While Lennie remains the geeky, but talented clarinetist. Not to mention, when you add to the mix that her mother is missing from the family and Lennie is living with her Gram- gardener extraordinaire, and her Uncle Big- the pot smoking, caring arborist. Things start to get complicated when one night Toby, Bailey's boyfriend, shows up at Lennie's window and they share a very intimate moment together resulting in a kiss or two. Not only is Lennie confused, but she is also morbidly ashamed that she is getting involved with her dead sister's boyfriend. The main reason Toby and Lennie have this connection is because of Bailey; they are both in this messy state of sadness and understand exactly what each other are feeling. But this doesn't make for a healthy recovery dealing with the grief over Bailey's death. It only adds to another complication as Lennie finally goes back to school after four weeks and meets the new absolutely gorgeous trumpet player, Joe Fontaine. Joe Fontaine was born in California, but raised in Paris, France, and is a fabulous not only trumpet, but guitar player as well. He's basically the entire package, as far as guys go. When Lennie suddenly finds herself involved with both Toby and Joe is when things start to get super complicated and a bit reckless.
I absolutely loved all of the characters in the novel. The fact that the story centers around Lennie's grief over her sister and the mystery behind her mother was something I can relate to myself. Everyone has gone through grief at one point or another in their life; grief can result from many things. Each of the characters had their own quirks and that was why I greatly enjoyed reading this book. I got to connect on a more intimate level with more than just Lennie. I learned about Toby and the extent of his sadness, Gram's protectiveness over her roses, Big's fifth divorce, Sarah (Lennie's friend), and Joe Fontaine and his other brothers. All of which I had come to adore and admire as if they were my own friends and family.
I took note of the beautiful and effortless writing within the first chapter of the novel. I also found out after reading the book, that Nelson herself is a published poet. I can definitely see this in her gorgeous writing. I also liked that Lennie was a poet herself. Everywhere she went she wrote these poems about Bailey and her family and her life on the backs of candy wrappers, the trunk of a tree, and all over the room Bailey and Lennie used to share. It was very refreshing the way Lennie's poems were incorporated into the story. It made it feel more personal in a way.
The plot was smooth and intricate. I loved how everything weaved together in the end. I've never been a big fan of love triangles, but for some reason this love triangle made sense. It wasn't like in paranormal books where two gorgeous guys are head over heels for this ordinary girl, it was a lot different, and I mean A LOT. It isn't completely irrational for Toby to want to be close to Lennie, I mean, she is Bailey's sister, she's the closest thing he's got to Bailey. Also, both Lennie and Toby are dealing with the same sense of utter out of control sadness and are simply trying to cope and understand each other in a way others didn't. The plot had me laughing, but also crying. It truly is a remarkable story.
If you happen to come upon a copy of The Sky is Everywhere keep it close to you and please, PLEASE read it! It's a wonderful, heart-breaking, gorgeous story that will make you feel things you never imagined words could make you feel.
Rating: 5 stars - I loved it! Buy a copy!