But then all of a sudden the breath is kicked out of me and I’m shoved onto the cold hard concrete floor of my life now, because I remember I can’t run home after school and tell Bails about a new boy in band.
My sister dies over and over again, all day long.
I first read this book shortly after its release a year ago but was struck with the desire to reread it last weekend. The skin-and-bones version of the plot seems to be one we’ve all heard before: talented, gorgeous older sister dies, leaving the younger, quiet, less confident one to find her way in the world. But THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE is so much more than that.
Self proclaimed bookworm and band geek Lennie Walker is just returning to school after the death of her older sister, Bailey. During her absence, the school band gained a new member, Joe Fontaine, who is not only talented (he plays the trumpet, guitar, as well as clarinet, subbing for Lennie while she was out) but more genuinely cheerful than anyone Lennie has ever met. Juxtaposing his happiness is Toby, Bailey’s boyfriend, who is the only person Lennie believes misses Bailey as fiercely as she does. She finds comfort in him, though she knows Toby is the one person she should stay away from. Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys—and two different approaches to the world. Can she allow herself to be happy with Joe? Or will being around Toby, who grieves with her, keep Bailey’s memory alive?
This is so much more than a love triangle book. This is about grief, all the different ways to deal with it and slowly move on. This is the story of a sister’s love and the legacy another sister left behind. This is the story of a broken family—Lennie lives with her grandmother and uncle after her mother abandoned her and Bailey years before—and how they survive loss. It’s about a girl wanting to find happiness again, but feeling guilty when she does. This story forces Lennie to select a path, and the options are not as clear cut as Toby vs. Joe.
Every single character is alive with his or her own personality, from Lennie’s slightly crazy, garden-obsessed Grams to her Uncle Big, the town lothario. Joe is my personal favorite, with his sunny—and slightly dorky—personality and his clear adoration of Lennie.
The prose in this book is absolutely stunning, aided by Lennie’s own poems at the beginning of each chapter. Nelson’s vivid descriptions put grief into plain terms, making even someone who hasn’t lost a love one feel the pain. So much that even when Lennie’s simplest thought—wishing Bailey were here so she could tell her about Joe—sends her into tears, the reader’s heart twists as well. After you put the book down, you feel like you have suffered a terrible loss and found your way back from it yourself. THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE is just that vivid.