The Sky Is Everywhere
by Jandy Nelson
- Pages: 272
- ISBN: 0803734956
- Link: Goodreads
- Format: Hardcover
- Published on: March 9th 2010
- Published by: Dial
In the wake of her sister’s sudden death, 17 year old Lennie must figure out who she outside of her sister’s shadow. Lennie and her sister, Bailey, were extremely close and Lennie is stricken with grief. In Jandy Nelson’s debut novel, The Sky Is Everywhere, Lennie finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby, and the new boy in town, Joe. Along the way, Lennie learns secrets about both the sister she believed told her everything and the mother she never met. At its core, The Sky Is Everywhere is about a teenager’s struggle with grief.
For all the hype Nelson’s novel received, I was kind of hoping to enjoy it more. The grief aspect of The Sky Is Everywhere was something I thought Nelson did well: I thought a lot of Lennie’s actions during the book were believable of someone who was stricken with grief, from her attraction to Toby to pushing people away.
Despite this strength, The Sky Is Everywhere is not without flaws. For example, Nelson seemed to think it was necessary to jam in details about the secondary characters that didn’t really add anything to the plot and ranged from the silly and pointless (who really cares that Lennie’s uncle was married five times?) to making it seem like Nelson doesn’t quite grasp certain concepts. I guess I was mostly bugged about the part where Lennie’s friend, Sarah, was supposed to be this big feminist but then talked Lennie into dressing all slutty in order to attract Joe. It’s one thing to dress a certain way because you want to, but I find it appalling that girls are constantly encouraged to dress a certain way in order to appeal to a male fantasy (or what they perceive to be a male fantasy) – especially if dressing that way otherwise makes the girl or girls uncomfortable. And for a supposed feminist to suggest dressing this way to a female friend? No…just no. I was almost expecting Sarah’s suggestion that Lennie dress slutty was some sort of set up to get back at Lennie for pushing her away (and I admit that the fact I had this expectation is troublesome).
There was also this scene where Lennie takes Joe to this part of the woods that’s set up like an honest-to-God bedroom. It’s here that they talk about Lennie’s sexual history – or more precisely, they discuss the fact that she’s a virgin. While I think it’s great that they’re having a conversation about sex, I was bothered that the conversation seemed to focus on Lennie’s virginity. We are told that Joe had a previous girlfriend and that it was “serious”. We’re lead to believe that they did something sexual, but it’s never explicitly spelled out what they did or how far they went. I was peeved that Joe’s sexual history was treated as no big deal but that Lennie’s virginity was a big deal. See, as a guy, Joe’s expected to have had sex. As a girl, Lennie’s value as a human being depends on her being “virtuous”; unlike Joe’s sexual history, Lennie’s sexual history needs to be discussed in minute detail. I find this double standard appalling. I was further grossed out when Joe was all “OMG, I’m going to deflower you!” The whole scene made me wish someone would hurry up and write a young adult novel where the female lead has more sexual experience than the guy she’s dating and she’s not slut-shammed for her experience.
Ultimately, the strength of Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere is ultimately in it’s handling of Lennie’s grief.