I want my sister.
I want to hurl a building at God.
If you read the cover blurb on The Sky Is Everywhere, you're going to think it's a huge love triangle story with death as a backdrop. It's not. I'd hesitate to even call it a love triangle, as it's pretty clear early on that Joe Fontaine holds Lennie's romantic interest. She and Toby fall prey to their carnal lust for each other as a means to comfort one another, be there for each other without the star of their lives that was Bailey.
Joe is the boy with the smile who can wipe away Lennie's tears just by being in the same room with her. His are the kisses that finally make her relate to the love in the stories she loves to read, and his arms are where she wants to be.
Quite simply put, I loved this novel. I loved the deeply flawed but oh so real Lennie who, blinded by grief, makes some bad decisions while she's trying to find her way. I loved the equally sorrowful Toby, the completely amazing Joe. I adored Gram - Lennie's grandmother who raised her after her mother walked out on them - and Big, Lennie's uncle. I liked Sarah, Lennie's best friend, and even Bailey, who we only got to meet through Lennie's reminiscing and poems.
But most of all, I loved Jandy Nelson's writing. How she manages to give Lennie a real voice while showing her loss, her misery. There are some truly beautiful paragraphs in here, and some light-hearted, funny ones.
"...How do others do it? People die all the time. Every day. Every hour. There are families all over the world staring at beds that are no longer slept in, shoes that are no longer worn. Families that no longer have to buy a particular cereal, a kind of shampoo. There are people everywhere standing in line at the movies, buying curtains, walking dogs, while inside, their hearts are ripping to shreds. For years. For their whole lives. I don't believe that time heals. I don't want to. If I heal, doesn't that mean I've accepted the world without her?"
The first few pages of this novel seem a little cliche-y. Lennie meets Joe and immediately feels a connection with him, forgets to be crying about her dead sister and laughs at pretty much the second thing he says. There is no doubt that Joe is on the path to becoming a main romantic interest. But despite the rocky beginning, this novel soon becomes so engrossing that you don't want to put it down. I finished it in just over 24 hours, feeling guilty over not taking the time to savor this book the author spent so much time working on but unable to tear myself from the pages.
Now, to be true to my fangirl side. Joe Fontaine. *insert uncontrollable gushing here* He is just so full of life, so amazing, so romantic! Guys like Joe Fontaine do not exist in real life. They just don't. No one is that gorgeous and that romantic and that incredibly talented and oh, so sweet. I know that, but you know what? I don't care. That's why I love books like this, so I can find those non-existent guys and swoon over them through the pages that make them real.
Now, don't read this review and think it's one of those books that puts the ROMANCE in contemporary romance. Yes, there are strong love themes in this book, but that's far from all it is. This is the novel of one teenager learning that she can no longer hide in the shadow of a dead girl. One who has to mourn her sister even as she has to find herself. This is a novel of family and love and life, of learning that death is a part of it all. That grief is eternal, that you never stop missing those you lose, but that good things can still happen even in the midst of all the bad.
Highly, highly recommended.
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - 4.5 out of 5 stars