I just came back from a long vacation in northern Washington. Lots of outdoor activities, which means no cell phone, no internet, no cable or tv at all. But lots of reading. And I read a few really good ones that I liked a lot.
But I also read this one. And I hated it so much.
Last year, I adored Jandy Nelson’s second book, I’ll Give You the Sun. I loved it so much, I went and downloaded her first book, The Sky is Everywhere, and put it aside to read later. And it really bums me out that I hated it so much.
The Sky is Everywhere is about Lennie (her real name is Lennon, like John), who is reeling in the aftermath of her amazing older sister Bailey’s sudden death a few weeks back. Lennie and Bailey were raised by their hippie grandmother and uncle in some crazy messy house with amazing gardens in some ridiculous hippie town in Northern California. Its all about flowers and rivers and running in the grass. And some stupid B&B that keeps a bedroom out in the middle of a meadow.
Seriously, this town makes Stars Hollow look like a reasonable place to live.
Their mom took off 16 years prior to go and find herself, leaving the girls with Gram. The girls see this as some sort of amazing nomadic adventure, and imagine their mom out in amazing places doing cool things, but everyone else sees her as a deadbeat mom who couldn’t deal and took off.
After Bailey drops dead from some heart issues, Lennie can’t seem to move on and pick up the pieces. She ignores her best friend (the obnoxiously DIFFERENT Sarah), she makes the moves on Bailey’s mourning fiancé, and she acts all-around selfishly and bratty. So of course, the hot new guy at school only has eyes for her. Ugh.
The subplot, that I should have liked for its originality at least, was about being in the school band and trying to play first chair clarinet. But I found it annoying and stupid.
I couldn’t stand Lennie. I knew that every choice she made was wrong, and that they would all come back and deservedly bite her in the ass. It made turning the pages torturous.
Really, I didn’t like 99% of this book.
But here’s what I liked.
Lennie had this weird habit of writing poetry on little scraps of paper and then hiding them around town. Mostly as a mechanism for dealing with missing her sister, I think, but I really have no idea. Some of them were kind of cool.
At 4:48 p.m. on a Friday in April,
my sister was rehearsing the role of Juliet
and less than one minute later
she was dead.
To my astonishment, time didn’t stop
with her heart.
People went to school, to work, to restaurants;
they crushed crackers into their clam chowder,
fretted over exams,
sang in their cars with the windows up.
For days and days, the rain beat its fists
on the roof of our house —
evidence of the terrible mistake
God had made.
Each morning, when I woke
I listened for the tireless pounding,
looked at the drear through the window
and was relieved
that at least the sun had the decency
to stay the hell away from us.
(Found on a piece of staff paper, spiked on a low branch, Flying Man’s Gulch)
So there you go. 1% interesting.
Look, Jandy Nelson clearly improved her writing between book one and two. But this really put a sour taste in my mouth. When her third book comes out, I’m going to wait and see.