Indecisive female heroines tend to make me slap-happy. As in, I want to slap them. However, Lennie – the grieving main character of Jandy Nelson’s moving THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE made me rethink this policy. Even though Lennie makes bad choices at times, the reader understands the thought process that leads her to them, and empathizes. That’s a neat trick for a writer to pull, especially when the MC in question is indulging in spontaneous make-out sessions with her deceased sister’s boyfriend.
What did I just say? Yeah, that’s what I said. And guess what? Nelson sells Lennie’s frame of mind so completely that while you want to scream at her, “No! No! Don’t sabotage yourself like that!” another part of you is also gently saying, “Yeah. I totally understand.”
Weeks after her older sister’s death, Lennie’s houseplant (so called because her eccentric family believes it is mystically tied to her own well-being) shows no signs of recuperating. In fact, it’s getting worse. Lennie’s room, previously shared with her sister Bailey, still has Bailey’s dirty laundry in the basket, her clean clothes in the closet, and her cluttered desk remains untouched.
Lennie’s mind won’t let go of Bailey either. Although she will not open up to her family members (Gram – the local rose grower of magical love flowers and Uncle Big – pothead and mad scientist who attempts to resurrect dead houseflies) Lennie looks for release through writing poetry on trees, scraps of trash paper blowing in the wind, fast-food cups, and her own shoes. Her feelings are literally blowing around the town, and unbeknownst to her, being collected and cherished by the new kid in school; clarinet prodigy and super hot Joe Fontaine.
Even as charismatic and patient Joe wears away the protective covering around her scarred heart, Lennie finds herself entangled with Toby – Bailey’s grief-stricken and attractive boyfriend. Their shared love of Bailey erupts into passion for each other that Lennie doesn’t understand, and though her mind tells her that it’s wrong, she can’t always control her emotions when Toby is around.
THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE is an amazing story of self-discovery, and the love triangle is only the first layer. Lennie is dealing not only with the death of her sister, but also some realizations that come crashing down upon delving into Bailey’s desk regarding the truth about the enigmatic mother who abandoned the girls when they were only children.
Lennie has lived in Bailey’s shadow for so long, it seems she doesn’t know what to be when she is no longer Bailey’s Little Sister, but simply Lennie.