“The Sky Is Everywhere” by Jandy Nelson
It was one of those impulse purchases courtesy of Amazon’s Kindle recommendations. I read it on a red-eye plane-ride to London and couldn’t stop reading, even after my husband start snoozing. The protagonist Lennie aka John Lennon — who falls for one of the most irresistible boys in YA literature (is there any other kind?) — is grieving the sudden death of her talented, charismatic, beautiful older sister, Bailey (again, I say from personal experience as an adoring younger sister — is there any other kind?). Lennie constantly writes notes, poems, memorized conversations, confessions, and everything in between to Bailey on walls, scraps of paper, furniture, candy wrappers, anything she can mark on — and then she throws them to the wind or hides them, leaving them behind for the earth to swallow up.
As she’s dealing with the weight of her grief, which includes an incredibly effed up relationship with Bailey’s mourning boyfriend Toby — Lennie meets Joe , a gifted musician who bakes croissants, has killer eyelashes, and composes songs just for his John Lennon. But Joe only knows Lennie post-Bailey, and there’s a part of Lennie that can’t handle that, because she can’t handle being post-Bailey herself.
Toward the end of the novel, Lennie has a pivotal revelation:
“Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.”
Reading those words, I cried (which I do with alarming frequency while reading YA books). I felt like Nelson had written them for me, just as Lennie wrote just for Bailey. I have re-read that line so many times, my Kindle automatically opens to it any time I click on the title. That’s exactly how grief feels. It never ends. I can tell you this from experience, just as I’ve told you I know what it feels like to have an amazing older sister. Our mother died in fall 2008, and Nelson is right — grief and love, they’re united, and you can only feel one if you’ve experienced the other.