The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

“Put your head under the water, open your eyes and look up at the sun. Your whole world will be filled with sparkles of water light”*

I txtd that to SpiderSam two months before he died, not knowing The Sky is Everywhere, from where I stole these words, would follow my grief so closely, wearing his clothes and all.

Tomorrow the US paperback of Jandy Nelson’s heart wrenching The Sky is Everywhere is released. I read JN’s poignant story last year but my own grief meant only now can I write about this book which helped me so much when SpiderSam died.

The Sky is Everywhere made the shortlist of last year’s Inkys in Sept/Oct/whenever and I hoped it would win the Silver Inky but Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater won the 2010 Silver Inky. I have no idea why I haven’t read Shiver, what with it being about dogs and all. I read eleven of the contenders before the longlist was announced, and five on the shortlist. A few of my fav books of last year were longlisted but didn’t make the shortlist: Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey, The Wrong Grave by Kelly Link and my favouritetist The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff. Again the dog worked his magic.

Each evening she held his head in her hands and ran her aching fingers thru the thick ruff of fur around his neck. He burrowed against her, sighing devotion

I’m not sure dogs are a judging criteria in the Inkys, despite Inky himself. I didn’t read all the titles and perhaps there’s even better dogs in the other books. ie. Shiver.

There was some stiff competition in the shortlist eg. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. Current Miles Franklin Award longlister The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta. That was a bit intense for me, also my brother and his wife are Sam and Georgia. (SpiderSam is not my brother!) I found the grief of The Piper’s Son more confronting than Lennie’s grief. I wonder if this was due to the visual elements of The Sky is Everywhere. Last year when I read Lennie’s story it was not so much in my head, but in the tactile object of a phenomenally executed book, in design as well as words. Now Lennie’s grief has become my own, and I’ll reread The Sky is Everywhere but not The Piper’s Son. (I reread Finnikin of the Rock many times.)

Jandy Nelson said in an interview

“I kept thinking of her, this bereft girl, who wanted so badly to communicate with someone who was no longer there that she just began writing her words on everything and anything she could, scattering her poems and thoughts and memories to the winds. In my mind, it was a way for Lennie to write her grief on the world, to mark it, to reach out to her sister and at the same time to make sure, in this strange way, that their story was part of everything.”

I write my grief, but my diary and the letters I write to SpiderSam aren’t enough. I wanted to write on the world, not thru scattering pages like Lennnie, but here, where every blog post somehow comes back to Sam and how lost I am without him. My first post about SpiderSam led me to Miss A, Sam’s friend who, like me, was bereft of anyone to talk her grief to cos her friends hadn’t known him.

Before Miss A I wondered who would listen to all the things I had to tell SpiderSam. The sky wasn’t enough. Then Edward Shaddow suggested Twitter. Now I’m addicted to my @wickednoise (words Sam once txtd me). Sam even has his own tag. For a bit I wrote a #SpiderSam every time I went on Twitter, but then it fell away, until the other night when my grief crept back and I had a talk with him. Who knew stupid social media could be therapeutic!?

Back to the sky cos that’s what it’s all about. What a sky it is. Not only the sky but nature in all its glory is so important in The Sky is Everywhere. The giant redwoods, the river, the garden Lennie’s Gram so lovingly tends. My fascination with nature was ensnared by these forests, rivers, flowers. They’re so alive when Lennie’s sister is not.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
The new website for the US paperback of The Sky is Everywhere celebrates this nature and I prefer the new cover of the paperback to the US hardback. But the Walker cover is better than either. Everything about Walker’s edition is blue: the colour of Lennie’s grief and the words she wrote on the sky. Being a Walker book, the designer isn’t named in the pub details (why Walker sucks :P) But JN kindly enlightened me by acknowledging Katie Everson, creator of such a blissful piece of art.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Lennie’s poems are included as photos of the found objects she writes them on (with location where scattered over the page). Obviously I was smitten and this caused my initial ardor. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the connection between her poems and one very hot musician. And not only did her scribblings become illustrations, the book’s typography is blue cos the sky really is everywhere.

It begins at your feet*

The cover’s title is in Lennie’s cool penmanship and it’s tactile. The words are unbossed (as in opp of embossed) and the card is textured. What more could my fingers want? Then there’s (blue) elastic to mark my page.

Illustration and other design elements were integral to a number of titles on the Inkys longlist last year, leading to many residing on my bookshelves and being lovingly perused to savour their visual delights eg. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Liar by Justine Larbalestier, The Wrong Grave, Loving Richard Feynman.

We can never have too many pictures, esp when they’re painted by a talented Grasshopper.
SpiderSam, your colours leap off the walls forever. I will always remember you for the friendship you gave me.


*I’m not certain these quotes are correct cos I lent my copy to Sam’s sister. Particularly the first one I may have changed slightly to make it say what I wanted when I txtd it to SpiderSam.