Friday, November 26, 2010

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Somehow I managed to listen to two audiobooks in a row that were narrated in first person by a young woman who didn't have a mother and had just lost an older sibling. The Sky is Everywhere is aimed at an older readership than Mockingbird - I'd recommend it to Grade 9 and up (because of sexual activity) - and that recommendation is an enthusiastic one. It's a romance and I loved it. Really! If you follow my blog, you know this doesn't happen often. Like, almost never. I think the last romance I enjoyed this much was I Capture the Castle.

I'll back up and give you the summary. Lennon (Lennie) Walker is 17 when her sister Bailey suddenly dies. The two have lived with their grandmother and their uncle ever since their mother abandoned them 16 years earlier. Lennie has read Wuthering Heights 23 times. She plays clarinet and she has never had a boyfriend. A month after Bailey dies, Lennie falls for Joe, a new guy in her band class. At the same time, she finds herself very attracted to Bailey's boyfriend Toby. Grief, despair and hormones lead Lennie into some poor choices. What is especially amazing is how she comes through it all.

There are some fabulous quirky secondary characters, the northern California setting is vivid and the writing is poetic with plenty of humour too. I listened to an audiobook, so I can't give you much in the way of examples of Nelson's style. Here are a couple of quotes other readers noted: "It's as if someone vacuumed up the horizon while we were looking the other way." (Lennie describing the depth of her family's sorrow.) "Our tongues have fallen madly in love, gotten married and moved to Paris... Heathcliff and Cathy have nothing on us." (Lennie kissing Joe.) Kudos to Nelson for including a scene with an inappropriate erection (and at least one other time when a penis embarrassed its owner). Real life is awkward. Oh, and I'll also mention that Lennie's uncle Big "smokes more pot than the entire 11th Grade." Teens aren't the only ones with interesting lives in this novel.

A nice touch in the Brilliance Audio edition (7.25 hours; read by Julia Whelan) is the clarinet and guitar instrumental duet that opens and closes each CD, evoking the piece of music Joe writes for Lennie.

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