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The Sky is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson
“That's a misconception, Lennie. The sky is everywhere, it begins at your feet.”
I know, I'm late to the party.  I kind of remember everyone making a big deal out of this book, but it sounded kind of tragic and not really my thing.  (If you'll remember, I haven't always been the biggest fan of contemporary novels.)  But my interest was renewed in this title when I saw several posts about a read along circulating the interwebz recently.  Unfortunately, I don't have the time or the energy to devote to a read along these days, but I still wanted to read this book...and soon after reading that synopsis again.  So, I did what I normally do in this case, and I located the audiobook on Audible.  (That addiction is costing me some serious bank...I really need to go to the next town over and get set up on their system for borrowing audio, but every time I've tried, they've been closed. Grrr.)

I have loved every audiobook I've listened to that Julia Whelan has narrated.  A couple of them have even included a little spoken French, which she speaks with ease and eloquence.  Add to this the fact that the love interest grew up in France and speaks French fluently, and this audiobook becomes très magnifique.  Julia Whelan is such an expressive narrator, and she sounds the part in every title I've listened to, which makes it easy to see why she keeps cropping up on YA/NA titles.  With some narrators, it's hard not to hear them as the character they performed in a previous work, but with Whelan, I'm immediately transported into this new piece of fiction, and I don't remember that she has ever portrayed another character until the story is over. She is truly a superb narrator, and if you haven't experienced an audiobook performed by her before, I definitely recommend it.

The story presented in The Sky is Everywhere is just as poignant as the audiobook's presentation of it.  It's beautiful and sad and full of raw emotion.  BUT, it's also funny and sweet and terribly romantic.  In other words, you will run the full gamut of emotions with this novel, and at the end, you're going to feel like you've been running the whole time.  This is one of those books where halfway through, I was banging my head against the wall, wondering why I'd waited so long to pick it up.  It's so unbelievably good and real and just what I was in the mood for.

I thought this was going to be a grief book initially, based on that summary, full of sadness and coping and surviving.  But this is so not that book.  It's about a sister's grief, yes, but it's funny and poetic and clever and just so REAL.  There are moments of pure heartfelt sadness, when Lennie is trying to come to terms with her sister's absence.  And there is coping, sometimes in very unproductive ways.  Let's just say that the summary's allusion to a love triangle rings false, though the kissing of more than one boy is involved in the grief process.
“All her knowledge is gone now. Everything she ever learned, or heard, or saw. Her particular way of looking at Hamlet or daisies or thinking about love, all her private intricate thoughts, her inconsequential secret musings – they’re gone too. I heard this expression once: Each time someone dies, a library burns. I’m watching it burn right to the ground.”
But Lennie does other things that help her overcome the loss of her sister:  she writes poetry on scraps of paper and leaves it for others to find (this actually ends up being her saving grace), she plays the clarinet and decides to pursue her dreams of attending Julliard, and she falls in love for the first time.  So, you see, this book is not entirely about grief, but rather how you handle it and how you handle the guilt that comes from moving on with your life after such a tragic loss.  It's about not letting that loss -- and the resulting grief -- define you.

Basically, I loved every facet of this novel.  The main characters were so genuine: in their grief, in their love, and in their actions. The secondary cast of characters was just as phenomenal.  The writing was gorgeous and heartrending, infused with those snippets of poetry and conversations on scraps of receipts and candy wrappers. And the narration was perfection.  This novel is definitely going on my favorites shelf, and you can rest assured that I'll be picking up a hard copy for my shelf so that I can highlight and flag all of my favorite passages (read: all of them) and read them over and over again.
“Life's a freaking mess. In fact, I'm going to tell Sarah we need to start a new philosophical movement: messessentialism instead of existentialism: For those who revel in the essential mess that is life. Because Gram's right, there's not one truth ever, just a bunch of stories, all going on at once, in our heads, in our hearts, all getting in the way of each other. It's all a beautiful calamitous mess. It's like the day Mr. James took us into the woods and cried triumphantly, "That's it! That's it!" to the dizzying cacophony of soloing instruments trying to make music together. That is it.”

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.