professornana (professornana) wrote,

savoring the words

There are some books that are meant to be devoured in one huge gulp and others that need to be savored slowly. I enjoy reading both types. And sometimes I race through a book only to go back and savor it on a re-read. This one, I read slowly over more than a week because I just wanted to take my time and enjoy the writing (though I did long to peek at the last couple of chapters to make sure it all came out well in the end).

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson (Dial, 2010) should be on the Morris shortlist. This debut novel is lyrical and lovely and appealing. As the story opens, Lennie's (she is named after John Lennon) sister Bailey has died unexpectedly. One moment she was there in the bedroom they shared, and then suddenly of a fatal arrhythmia at high school play rehearsal. Lennie does not know how to deal with any of this. Gram and Big, her "parents" are dealing with their own grief. They try to engage Lennie to no avail. Lennie, instead, resorts to writing notes and poems and letters on scraps of paper and discarded cups, torn pages from an old newspaper, and the like. She does not keep these pieces but instead allows them to blow away rather like her own mother who simply walked away from her two daughters one day. The only person who seems to understand the weight of Bailey's loss is Toby, Bailey's boyfriend. However, their joint sorrow leads to more of a sense of depression and shame eventually as the two take comfort in one another. Into this morass of sadness and loss comes Joe Fontaine. He seems determined to become a part of Lennie's life.

Some of the territory may seem familiar for the plot of a YA novel. What is not ordinary in the least is the superb writing. Nelson turns phrases on their heads and then back again so that they create an emotional landscape against which readers see and hear Lennie and Joe and Toby and Big and Gram. Just read the opening chapter and see if this book does not pull you in and hold you fast to its heart.

This is Book #116 (which means I have met the 100 Books in 2010 Challenge. New goal is 200 books).
Tags: ya books

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