Five-Star Friday is a periodically regular (say what?!) feature that I’m planning on running on Fridays (but not every Friday) in which I talk about (or verbally drool over) a book that I’ve read and ADORED (sometimes they’ll be recent releases and other times they might be older…my piles are tall and the bottoms are old). Yay! I always feel so happy and light and wonderful when I am beside myself with delight over a book, and I want to share the love with you all in the hopes that we can all get together and have an embarrassing, squeal-filled love-fest full of lots of high-pitched “Ohmygod, I KNOW!s” and chest-clutching sighs of contentedness. Huzzah!*
This week, Jandy Nelson’s THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE
So I need someone to help with some crazy that’s going on over here. Like, real help for real crazy. Here’s the down low on my total loony-ness: I read Jandy Nelson’s absolutely AMAZING debut novel, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, for the first and second time (because, ya know, I read it twice back to back. Obviously.) in one week earlier this year. That’s two reads–and the second time was a real read. No skimming (skimming! This book?!? I couldn’t ever. Oh, the beauties I would miss!)–in three days. And then a couple of months later, I read it again….And then one more time after that not long ago. That’s FOUR TIMES I’ve read this book, read every word, and I’m already thinking about reading it again. Every time I was enraptured. Enamored. Engaged. I’m kind of obsessed with it. I don’t think I could NOT be obsessed with it if someone begged me profusely on their hands and knees. Offered me millions of dollars. Made me Velveeta Shells and Cheese. People, my love of this book is deeper than my love for MAC & CHEESE. Mac. And. Cheese.
How bad was it (who am I kidding? It’s still pretty bad)? I wouldn’t return the copy I borrowed from my library until I got the copy I bought online immediately after I finished read #2 in the mail. Because I couldn’t bear the thought of not having it near me. Normally when I finish books, I put each one in my “finished books” pile. But THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE sat right next to me, on my night stand, on my bed, on the passenger seat of my car, just so that I could be sure of it, certain that I didn’t imagine its heartbreaking and life-affirming gorgeousness. Bat. Bat. Bat. (JOE! *Siiiiiiigh* Ok…*getting a grip* deeeep breaths…ok, I have a grip now.) I remember several nights when I brought my copy to work with me IN ADDITION to the book I was actually reading at the time just in case I was overcome with the gripping urge to flip through and reread some of my favorite parts. (It happens. Ummm….a lot-ish.) I glance at it longingly. I think about the characters, who are so so real to me now, and wonder how they are doing (because they ARE real and they are WONDERFUL), with Gram’s heady, aphrodisiacal flowers and green ladies, and Lennie’s sweet and touching poems and singing lasagna, and Joe’s green eyes and guitars and the bedroom in the woods and Big and his 6th wife and Toby and his poor, lost almost-family and orange rings. Bat. Bat. Bat. Uh oh.
Again. And again.
I can’t stop loving them and the story they tell and where their story comes from: Grief. Loss. Love. A sister-shaped hole that can only ever be filled with ghosts and memories and a little pang of sadness and a sense of some kind of cosmic FUBAR. How come Bailey was called to cut the line? What are we supposed to do now? Would she hate me for what I’ve done? She’ll never meet Joe (JOE! Bat. Bat. Bat), who has gripped me tight and pulled me slowly out of this hole. Gaaaahhhhh!! The tears! The heart! The love! The loss! The roses! The confusion! The bat bat bat! *Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh* Uh oh. I’m sunk. Again.
I don’t doubt that this story slayed me because, like Lennie, I have a sister who is both my opposite and my very dearest and best friend, a sister who IS Bailey in so many ways. When Lennie grieved, I grieved as well, not because my sister is gone but because I can empathize with the gut-busting, life-exploding loss. The sisterly affection was so tenderly wrought and so beautifully written that it overcame all of my senses and turned me into a babbling, weepy doofus. It was the BEST FEELING EVER.
Speaking of the writing…nope. I can’t even. I’ve run out of words that are worthy of describing how gorgeously this book was written. And let me just say, some of my very favorite parts were Lennie’s poems, and I’m not usually one to be down with poetry. But seriously, THIS:
There were once two sisters
who were not afriad of the dark
because the dark was full of the other’s voice
across the room,
because even when the night was thick
they walked home together from the river
seeing who could last the longest
without turning on her flashlight,
because sometimes in the pitch of night
they’d lie on their backs
in the middle of the path
and look up until the stars came back
and when they did,
they’d reach their arms up to touch them
how it was
THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE was gorgeous and thoughtful and real and moving and I LOVES IT SO SO MUCH.
Also, can I just add one more thing? I LOVE the cover–the hardcover. (Although the paperback version is very pretty, evoking Gram’s blooming garden AND the bed in the woods, it’s just not the same. Plus there’s an actual girl on it–book cover pet peeve A1 for me. Thankfully at least she only appears partially obscured on the bottom.) But this cover: the sky IS everywhere! From top to bottom. The blue is soothing and vibrant and…everywhere. Love! But it’s the heart that tickles me, being so full of metaphor for this story and for all stories that begin in sadness and grief. I love that it’s not the perfect heart shape. I love the color, bright and deep. But I LOVE that little hole! Look at it! It’s BEAUTIFUL! You guys, there’s a little hole in this heart that is filled with light. Gleaming, clear, bright light. An acknowledgment of both the loss that created it and the loved that filled it again with something wonderful, if not exactly the same stuff as before. *Sigh* … Uh oh. Again. I’m sunk. Bat. Bat. Bat.
*So, I know that this feature is called “Five-Star Friday,” intimating that I have five-star ratings on this blog. Alas, I’m still figuring out whether or not to have a rating system here, BUT I do always diligently rate all the books I read on my Goodreads page. The five-star titles of which I speak here are taken from my “Favorites” shelf there.