Book Review: The Sky is Everywhere

Don’t just read The Sky is Everywhere…Experience it!

I first heard of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson after seeing it on a number of agent’s manuscript wish lists as the type of book they are looking to represent. It had been on my list to read for sometime, and then it was personally recommended to me by an author I had the privilege to swap manuscripts with for beta reading. At that point I knew I needed to get my hands on it. After reading, the only thing that disappointed me was that I had waited so long.

Here we go: All Lennie wanted was to not forget her sister Bailey after her sudden death. But the only way Lennie feels her presence is by getting closer and closer to Bailey’s boyfriend—emotionally and physically—which leads to insurmountable guilt. So, when she meets Joe, who somehow makes her smile and laugh despite her sister’s absence, it complicates everything. It’s up to her to decide whether it’s more important to keep Bailey’s memory fresh or move on and live for herself.

Lennie happens to be a gifted musician, which I can relate to—well, maybe not the gifted part. She plays clarinet in her high school band. I played the trumpet. It just so happens that Joe plays the trumpet also. When he arrives at school, supremely talented and good looking, people take notice. This book reminded me of the joy that’s possible when playing music, the level of competition within a section, and the awe I felt listening to talented peers play (seriously, one of them teaches at a college now, some direct high school bands, and one has music available on Spotify).

Although, if I’m being completely honest, it mostly made me think about the people I encountered in band that I would have otherwise not met. When I started high school, for the most part I was a quiet introvert. And then suddenly I was playing trumpet in a group of mostly teenage boys, who were loud, funny, and much more talented than myself. I’m not one of those people who would love to go back and relive high school. If I did, I could think of a number of decisions I would make differently. But I wouldn’t change much about my time in band. I’d gladly stand for hours doing pointless arm circles, which were a frequent punishment/torture from our director, or alternating freezing my butt off and sweating profusely in my ancient wool uniform, if it meant still getting to experience all of the one off random things that happened as a result: 

  • staying out so late playing Ultimate Frisbee that the cops notified us of park curfew
  • exploring James A Reed and adopting a caterpillar named Reginald (who incidentally had to be given up because he, well, pooped way too much)
  • playing Bugler’s Holiday for contest and being robbed of a one rating (but pushing myself further than I’d ever before technically was almost reward enough)
  • going bowling and seeing someone actually score in the 290s?! (sometimes I’m still convinced that whole afternoon only happened in my head)
  • driving around Unity Village at night getting terrified because something weird seriously happened with a straw (I still can’t believe we stopped the car and got out)
  • paintballing for the first time, and loving it, using a bunch of borrowed gear (I believe there was a bit going on that involved spraying each other with copious amounts of Off, but the details are fuzzy)
  • discovering the Neon Brotherhood (I have to assume none of us drive them anymore)
  • spending my last day of a California vacation playing cards in a hotel room (I have lots of silly photographic evidence of this afternoon)
  • determining all the things you should absolutely positively never do with an iron (I still have the PowerPoint that summarized our findings)
  • covering each other’s arms and legs with pen markings in my college dorm in the weirdest game of chase/hide and seek ever (I seriously don’t know how this particular chain of events escalated, but it was a lot of fun)
  • making iron-on Office t-shirts with my “Best Office Buddy”, aka BOB, in my basement (sadly mine is faded almost beyond recognition)
  • just feeling like I was a part of something that no one would ever really understand without experiencing it…

Honestly, portions of that have to sound like gibberish, but living it was awesome.

Unfortunately, in the midst of Lennie’s grief, these aren’t exactly the types of experiences she is having. Although, she does have some magical moments, and I’d like to think there are more yet to come for her. I guess you’ll have to read to decide for yourself.

There you have it. Do yourself a favor and read The Sky is Everywhere. Think about the people who made high school memorable for you. Maybe check out some trumpet playing on your favorite streaming service. If you don’t know where to start, start here. He could play awesome as a teenager, and that was some years ago. Check out this song also, and imagine Joe killing it at the solo, like another trumpet I know once did. Or this song just because it made me a better player even if I didn’t letter at state that year.

If you haven’t already read The Sky is Everywhere, what are you waiting for? If you already have, why not pick it up again? Either way, take my advice when you do—don’t just read it, experience it!

Want information about purchasing this book from Neighborhood Reads, a local Washington, MO book store? Click on the book’s cover!

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