The Sky is Everywhere - by Jandy Nelson
Lennie plays second clarinet in the school orchestra and has always happily been second fiddle to her charismatic older sister, Bailey. Then Bailey dies suddenly, and Lennie is left at sea without her anchor. Overcome by emotion, Lennie soon finds herself torn between two boys: Bailey's boyfriend, Toby, and Joe, the charming and musically gifted new boy in town. While Toby can't see her without seeing Bailey and Joe sees her only for herself, each offers Lennie something she desperately needs. But ultimately, it's up to Lennie to find her own way toward what she really needs-without Bailey.
I am naturally drawn to books that rip your heart out and provoke massive tear flow. Well, this book accomplished both of those reactions. But don't worry, by the end of the book (and your box of tissues) your heart will be back in your chest, still aching but on the road to recovery.
Bailey's death is no surprise as the book starts four weeks after her death, and though you never meet Bailey, you fall in love with who she was through the many heartfelt descriptions and flashbacks told through Lennie's mournful eyes. Lennie is "the younger sister" by every definition of the phrase. She looked up to Bailey, walked in her footsteps, planned her future around being together. When all this is suddenly gone, she has to figure out who she is without her sister: "I am no longer a little sister. I am no longer a sister. Period."
I love the way Nelson developed the story. There are many ways to mourn and Lennie's is to retreat. She hides inside herself, inside the room the sisters shared that is now Bailey's shrine. She doesn't talk to her friends, she doesn't reach out to her family, she doesn't tell anyone how she is really feeling. You can tell she is struggling to accept the reality she has been forced into. "I don't believe time heals. I don't want it to. If I heal, doesn't that mean I've accepted the world without her."
In between the chapters there are poems or stories or thoughts that Lennie writes on whatever scraps of paper she can get her hands on. This is when she is truly honest about what she is going through and let's herself feel the pain that she struggles so hard to avoid. I kept having to put the book down to wipe the tears from my eyes.
"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."
"Everyone wants me to talk about it, but I can't. I'd need a new alphabet, one made of falling, of tectonic plates shifting, of the deep devouring dark."
"I wonder why bereaved people even bother with mourning clothes when grief itself provides such an unmistakable wardrobe."
"The unbearable fact is, I have a future and she doesn't. This is when I realize: my sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn't go away, it becomes a part of you."
Read this book and you will never be the same.