(No actual dueling—or even arm-twisting—was involved. Don’t worry, this is a dual review, not a duel review. Sorry if you’re disappointed.)
Today I have another dual review of a book from my Make Me Read It Giveaway (as part of the Wrap-Up Round-Up). Danielle Hammelef, a faithful FYFA reader, was the latest winner, and she chose to make me read The Sky Is Everywhere. Once I read the book, I sent italong to her.
Once again, Danielle took me up on the option of doing a dual review, which I was really excited about since it’s such a fun way to review!
Read on to see what we thought of the book…
The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Published by Dial Books on March 2010
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: YA (Dealing with death, Characters have sex)
Adrift after her sister Bailey's sudden death, Lennie finds herself torn between quiet, seductive Toby—Bailey's boyfriend who shares her grief—and Joe, the new boy in town who bursts with life and musical genius. Each offers Lennie something she desperately needs... though she knows if the two of them collide her whole world will explode.
Join Lennie on this heartbreaking and hilarious journey of profound sorrow and mad love, as she makes colossal mistakes and colossal discoveries, as she traipses through band rooms and forest bedrooms and ultimately right into your heart.
As much a celebration of love as a poignant portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often uproarious, and absolutely unforgettable.
NICOLE SAYS: I have to confess that, overall, this book just wasn’t for me. I LOVED Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, so I had high expectations, but this book just sort of frustrated me. And the more I thought about it after I put the book down, the more frustrated I got. I had to pass the book along to Danielle practically silently because I didn’t want to say anything to influence her opinion! Now that I’ve let it sit for a while in my mind, I’m back to being okay with it, but that’s about the best I can say. This is really one of those cases where the book just didn’t sit well with me, but I know it’s a good book that many people would (and do) love.
What Fed Our Addiction:
Emotional journey. Even though I didn’t love the book, there were still some aspects that I really enjoyed. The biggest one was Lennie’s emotional journey. She was truly broken after her sister’s death, and my heart broke for her.
I also enjoyed the emotional journey Lennie ventured on in this book and how she finally realized she wasn’t the only one in her family grieving her sister’s loss and was able to mature and grow as a person.
The poetry. I loved the bits of poetry that Lennie left all around her world—she would write it everywhere she went, and her poems were a beautiful expression of her grief and confusion. I loved how they were eventually tied into the story as well.
At first I wasn’t sure exactly how all these pieces of poetry scattered throughout the area were connected, but when they tied together at the end it added another depth to this story that I enjoyed and found added a sense of closure and completeness for me as a reader.
Beautiful writing. There is no doubt that Nelson is a fantastic writer. Her prose is practically poetry, which I love.
Oh my gosh, YES! I started jotting notes with my favorite quotes but eventually had to stop because there were so many poetic and lush lines that made me think and swoon over this author’s writing, that it was slowing my reading pace down too much. Just like in I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson has a writing voice and style I admire. I hope she publishes many more works.
Family ties. I loved the fact that Lennie was super close to her family (even though I didn’t love everything about her family… see below), and that Joe ended up feeling really close to them too. I sort of felt sorrier for Joe when things went wrong between him and Lennie because he was losing this extra family as well.
Family in YA as important, loving characters is always a pleasure for me to find. I enjoyed Big’s eccentricity and Gram’s wiliness to become a mom to her two granddaughters when her own child abandoned them. Joe’s family seemed more the stereotypical YA family, but it also made sense why he “adopted” Gram, Big, and Lennie as his own.
What Left Us Hungry for More:
Instant connection. I knew that I was supposed to be rooting for Joe and Lennie, but the connection between them seemed really sudden and I had a hard time believing it. They were instantly deeply in love, and Joe was a part of the family, as if he’d been around for years. I had a much harder time with my next issue (cheating) because I didn’t feel a true connection between Joe and Lennie anyway. It all felt too fast and a little melodramatic, and I just wanted Lennie to sort of put the brakes on things until she could get her head on straight since it didn’t seem to me that a days’ old relationship needed to be as dramatic as it ended up being.
I so agree with Nicole on this instant connection between Joe and Lennie. I never felt like it could be more than just a crush. Their relationship was supposed to be a deep love, but for me, there was definitely something missing.
Cheating and an odd way to deal with grief. I know I’m like a broken record about this topic, but I have a really hard time with books that predominantly feature cheating, and that was definitely the case here. It has to be done really well for me to be okay with it. I understood that the pull between Lennie and Toby had more to do with shared grief than with actual romantic feelings, but I was more confused by her response than anything. She kept making comments about how her grief made her suddenly hormonal—and I honestly just didn’t get that. But this odd response made it hard for me to connect to either relationship because none of it felt real. Lennie’s thoughts and feelings were so incredibly messed up … I just have a hard time enjoying a book when I’m miserable about all of the characters’ choices.
I too was very confused and never understood why grief would make Lennie into a raging, hormonal girl. When Lennie and Toby started being more than friends sharing the death of a loved one, I was turned off. I disliked this part of their relationship and especially when Lennie started cheating on Joe, who supposedly she was deeply in love with.
NICOLE SAYS: Yeah, it was hard not to feel icky about Toby and Lennie—I think we were supposed to feel that way, but knowing that didn’t make it more enjoyable for me to read. The whole dynamic between them just felt so toxic to me.
So, in the end, even though we both love Nelson’s writing, neither of us were absolutely in love with this book (though Danielle liked it a tad bit more than I did). We seem to be black sheep when it comes to this one, though. And I’m fairly certain both of us are still eagerly awaiting Fall Boys & Dizzy in Paradise, which is Nelson’s next book (coming in 2018).
NICOLE’S RATING: 2.5/5 Stars
DANIELLE’S RATING: 3 Stars
About the Author
I’m currently on sabbatical but worked in publishing for many years as a literary agent at Manus & Associates Literary Agency, representing lots of amazing writers.
I have a BA from Cornell, an MFA in poetry from Brown and another MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. I might go back to school again sometime, to study art history and religion. I like to teach as well.
I love rivers, really hot weather, poetry, art, Franz Marc and Marc Chagall, going to many movies in a row, going out to dinner, to France, to the symphony, orange and magenta, a couple wretched reality shows, Pierre Bonnard’s windows, tulips, night-blooming trees and people, myth, magic, music, solitude, sunlight on water, museums, gusto, geekiness, giants, absolutely all finger foods, so very many movies, GIRAFFES, dinner parties with my friends, redwood forests, late nights and early mornings, clunky heels and jewelry, being ridiculously in love.
I adore Northern California, have lived in San Francisco for over twenty-seven years. I’ve recently painted my apartment walls orange like Lennie and Bailey do in The Sky Is Everywhere.
Spiders profoundly freak me out.
I daydream a lot.
As spiritual beliefs go, I’m with Jude in I’ll Give You the Sun, who, after much travail, aspires to be “a wobbly people pole that tries to bring joy into the world, not one that takes joy from it.”
Thanks so much for joining me in reading and reviewing this one, Danielle! Dual reviews are so much fun!
Now, make sure you go friend or follow Danielle on Goodreads so you can see what she thinks of lots of other books too. And watch for future dual reviews with Danielle!