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I Feel It In My Toes

Posh reviews The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, a sweet and beautiful portrayal of a grieving teenager.

I Feel It In My Toes

BOOK REPORT for The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Straight Up with a twist of Poetry
Bonus Factors: Sisters, Kickass Gram, Garden
Relationship Status: High School Sweethearts

The Deal:

Lennie and her older sister, Bailey, had the kind of relationship that I, as an only child, have always envied. Sure, they did their fair share of bickering, but no argument could ever really come between such kindred spirits. Raised by their gram since their mother abandoned them as children, they've shared everything together, from discovering secret spots in the forest to whispering in their beds late into the night. But now Bailey is gone, killed instantly by an arrhythmia, and Lennie's whole world is shattered. How is it possible that time still passes, that life moves forward, without her beautiful, vibrant sister? As the entire household wrestles with grief (Gram focuses on her rose garden, while her son, Big, just smokes more pot than usual), Lennie finds that the only person who truly understands her heartbreak is Toby, Bailey's boyfriend. Together, they wade into a pool of anger, confusion and terrible sadness, a haze of guilt they can't seem to escape. But when Lennie meets Joe, the hot new musician at school, she detects a flicker of hope in his smile. Torn between the ghost of Bailey and the promise of Joe, Lennie must find her own way out of the darkness to a place where her heart can be restored.

Y'all, this ain't no Nicholas Sparks shizz. This book is an authentic portrayal of a grieving teenager, and to be honest, I had a tough time writing this review. Surprise surprise, it actually takes skills to handle this type of subject matter, and I'm not used to being, well, serious. Thankfully, Jandy Nelson already did the real work, so I'll carry on with my abuse of slang and parenthetical statements! Huzzah!

BFF Charm: Yay!

I want to give Lennie a hug so badly! But I also know that girlfriend needs her space. I've never suffered a loss like hers, but the pages of this book gave me a pretty good idea of the haunting pain and crippling guilt she experiences. Lennie's stronger than she thinks, however, and her whimsical heart and youthful vitality prevent this story from becoming the 24 hour Depression Network. As a way to reach out to Bailey, she begins leaving little pieces of her thoughts, scraps of poetry, on everything she comes across, whether it's a discarded paper cup or a library book. In another novel, these scattered poems might seem emo, but Lennie is so real in her flaws and her maturity that I found every scrap to be heartbreakingly beautiful. Even as she grieves, Lennie can't help but notice the beauty around her, and she begins to see that tragedy makes colors more vivid, lights much brighter. I want to be there for her, as she processes everything, not only so I can help shoulder the burden, but so I can share in her electrifying discoveries, such as this one:

But then I think about my sister and what a shell-less turtle she was and how she wanted me to be one too. C'mon, Lennie, she used to say to me at least ten times a day. C'mon, Len. And that makes me feel better, like it's her life rather than her death that is now teaching me how to be, who to be.

Also, bonus charm to Lennie's actual bestie, Sarah, who not only showers Len with unconditional love BUT also dresses like a crazy goth person and drives a black jeep named Ennui. Sarah, I am proud to share my name with you.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

For a story about death, this book is SMOKING HOT. Which I guess makes sense, given that traumatic experiences tend to heighten the senses, including... well, you know, the sexy business sense! I don't want to spoil the storyline for you, but let's just say that the swoon is heightened by the presence of not one but two v. fine male specimens. There are some moments with Joe that are of the butterflies-in-the-stomach variety (yay!), and there's ALSO some smoldering make-out sessions! In other words, the swoon in this book is the best of both worlds.

My only wish is for more development in Joe's character. Nelson paints such compelling portraits of Lennie and her family, and I wish she had done the same for this boy who seems magical, and yet occasionally falls flat.

Talky Talk: Straight Up with a twist of Poetry

I'm pretty much a Fred Savage when it comes to YA lit poems. Like, if I had known in advance that this novel featured poetic verse, I would've curled my lip in disgust and asked, "Is this a POETRY BOOK?!" But, just like little Fred, I quickly became enveloped in the story and found that I didn't actually mind the poems! In fact, I kind of loved them! Sometimes Lennie offers up dreams or questions, and other times she seems to be simply transcribing conversations with Bailey. Here's one of my favorites:

What's wrong, Lennie?
Tell me.
C'mon, spill it.
Okay. It's just that you're different now.
Like Zombieville.
I'm in Love, Len-- I've never felt like this before.
Like what?
Like forever.
Yeah, this is it. He's it.
How do you know?
My toes told me. The toes knows.

It also helps that the poems are short and only appear at the beginning of every chapter rather than completely overtaking the book. The rest of the story is told in a crisp and authentic first person, lyrically colored by Lennie's spirit, and the dialogue is believable without relying on teen-speak. Overall I truly enjoyed Jandy Nelson's style, esp. given her ability to explore such complicated emotions while never sinking into saccharine territory.

Bonus Factor: Sisters

As mentioned previously, I'm an only child, and while I LOVED Christmas growing up, I constantly craved the kind of sisterhood I read about in Little Women. Bailey and Lennie share an incredible bond, and my favorite parts of the book were the small, tiny, super-sistery moments between them, the kind of exchanges that only happen when you know every inch of a person. Not to mention that Lennie is SO LUCKY she had an older sister to teach her the important lessons in life, like How To Apply Eyeliner and Why Perms Are Evil.

Bonus Factor: Kickass Gram

I am totes in love with Lennie's gram. She's incredibly warm and loving, but she's also kind of insane! She treats her roses like children, and she spends days painting portraits of women (and only using the color green). Whenever I get old, I'm definitely using her as my role model in eccentricity.

Bonus Factor: Garden

Thanks to The Secret Garden, I'm always delighted when I encounter a garden in a YA book. Gram's yard sounds heavenly, and the legend of her roses being aphrodisiacs is certainly a bonus!

Casting Call:

Lennie is a pretty but low-key kind of girl, so I had to go with:

Carey Mulligan as Lennie

Bailey, on the other hand, is kinda wild and totally gorgeous, so Ashley Greene seems like a good choice, esp. since she's already played a dead person (hey-o!).

Ashley Greene as Bailey

Bailey's bf, Toby, is a cowboy kind of guy, so I had to go with one of my FNL faves:

Matt Lauria as Toby

Joe was tricky, cos he's supposed to be magnificently fine but also adorable, with curly hair. Hmm, cute musician named Joe with curly hair? I realize it's sad that I pictured one of the Jonas brothers but COME ON. This is what happens when you live in YA-land. Thankfully, I was ultimately able to convince my imagination to cast Aaron instead:

Aaron Johnson as Joe

Relationship Status: High School Sweethearts

This book and I shared something really special. Sure, we were young and kinda clueless back then, but that doesn't lessen the connection we felt, from the sweet awkwardness of our first kiss to the late night phone calls when we talked about anything and everything. I know the intensity of our feelings will fade with time, but I will always look back on this book with a warm fondness and a bittersweet taste on my tongue. It'll be a while before I can pass by a scrap of paper on the ground and not pick it up, hoping for a little bit of poetry.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).