The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

I’ve had my copy of The Sky is Everywhere since March because a good friend gave it as a gift for my birthday. I’ve heard good things about it but I haven’t had a chance to read it until last week. This was chosen as the monthly read for August in one of my Goodreads’ groups so I had to bump it up my TBR.

Here’s the summary from Jandy Nelson’s website:

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery sister Bailey. But when Bailey dies suddenly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life — and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey’s boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie’s own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they’re the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can’t collide without the whole wide world exploding.

When Lennie goes back to school after her sister Bailey passed away, she knows that nothing will ever be the same and she feels like no one understands what she’s going through except for Bailey’s boyfriend, Toby. She’s bowled over when she meets the new student at band practice, Joe Fontaine of the incredible eyelashes and grin the size of continental United States. She doesn’t understand why she’s so affected by this stranger and why he occupies her thoughts when she should be thinking about Bailey.

It was easy for me to empathize with Lennie, having experienced the loss of a loved one a couple of years ago. I love how this book tackles grief and how Lennie handles hers in ways that even she doesn’t understand. The Sky is Everywhere is so much more than a story with a love triangle as the summary implies. Even if the story occurs after Bailey passed away, you still feel like you get to know Bailey through Lennie’s memories of her. I like how the book deals with loss, but balanced with that unhappiness is the sense of wonder and giddiness that comes with falling in love. Lennie struggles to cope with her sorrow and learns to accept that life goes on even without her sister.

There are a lot of quotable lines from this book but here’s one that I especially liked:

My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a 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.

I highly recommend this book because I have a feeling a lot of people will be able to relate with Lennie and everything she’s going through. I enjoyed reading about the quirky secondary characters – it seemed like every character in this book has a very original personality. I also liked the poems scattered all throughout the book, poems about Bailey that Lennie writes in every surface that she can find. In the UK paperback edition, I’ve seen that the text is blue and it looks like handwriting in a journal and that the poems come in colored pictures that make the whole thing look like a scrapbook. I have the US hardcover edition, where everything’s in black ink. All in all, a very strong debut for Jandy Nelson and I will watch out for any other book that she writes.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

I picked up Unwind because it was chosen as our monthly book read in one of my Goodreads groups. I think I wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise because the premise is kind of creepy.

UnwindHere’s a description of what unwinding means from the movie website:

Twenty years from now, life and death in America have changed…

Genetic engineering has shattered the boundaries of science as we know it.

Life expectancy has increased dramatically.

Organ transplant is at an all time high.

But social, medical and welfare resources are stretched to breaking point.

So, the Government comes up with a solution…

It’s called UNWINDING.

Parents can now “Unwind” their troubled teens – a surgical process by which all of a teen’s body parts are harvested for organ donation. And, according to the law, these teens are not dead, they are just living in a “divided state”.

In this world gone mad, if you’re a teenager, you’re a target until your 18th birthday.

Yes, you’d better start running…

And here’s a summary of the book from Neal Shusterman’s website:

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would “unwind” them. Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed — but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

Sorry for the long descriptions, just wanted to provide a clear background to the story because the concept of unwinding can be a little confusing. At first, I though it was a horror story but although the plot is a little creepy, it’s not scary at all. The discussion for this book has started in my Goodreads group and a lot of us found the premise pretty hard to swallow. Unwinding supposedly was the solution that the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice camps agreed upon to end their war against each other. I can’t believe how they can all think that unwinding and living in a divided state is not equal to killing. I suspended my disbelief and went on to read the story because it does tackle interesting and unusual concepts. I had high hopes for this too because the group members who’ve finished reading the book have given it excellent reviews. However, I was never really sucked in by story and I wasn’t into it. The narrative was sloppy and a little chaotic for me, not because of the multiple points-of-view but because I felt like there wasn’t enough explanations for a lot of situations. I felt like the author kept giving facts about the world he created and just expects you to grasp the concept and believe them. For example, there were several mob scenes during the climax of the book but I didn’t think they were properly motivated. I thought the mob was pretty crazy. I don’t know, I may not be doing a good job of describing how I felt about the book but suffice it to say that I was disappointed.

Again, I’d like to say that maybe this book just wasn’t for me and I can certainly see why other people think it’s great. I’m not really into dystopian books and the ones that I ended up liking were The Hunger Games books. If you’re into dystopian or if the premise looks interesting enough for you, I suggest that you give it a try. I’d love to hear what other people think of the book.

I hope the book for our June monthly reading is a lot better! So far, I’ve been disappointed in the past two books.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

Thanks to my friend Giya for giving me The Summoning for my birthday! I’ve been curious about this book for some time because I’ve seen lots of copies of it in the local bookstores. I moved it up in my reading list when one of my groups in Goodreads decided to pick this for our monthly read.

Here’s a summary from Kelley Armstrong’s website:
Chloe Saunders sees dead people. Yes, like in the films. The problem is, in real life saying you see ghosts gets you a one-way ticket to the psych ward. And at 15, all Chloe wants to do is fit in at school and maybe get a boy to notice her. But when a particularly violent ghost haunts her, she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. Her seemingly crazed behaviour earns her a trip to Lyle House, a centre for ‘disturbed teens’. At first Chloe is determined to keep her head down. But then her room mate disappears after confessing she has a poltergeist, and some of the other patients also seem to be manifesting paranormal behaviour. Could that be a coincidence? Or is Lyle House not quite what it seems…? Chloe realizes that if she doesn’t uncover the truth, she could be destined for a lifetime in a psychiatric hospital. Or could her fate be even worse…? Can she trust her fellow students, and does she dare reveal her dark secret?

Oh and according to the website, there are excerpts available online so you can check it out before deciding if you want to buy it or not.

I must say that this line “Chloe Saunders sees dead people.” strongly reminded me of the movie Sixth Sense. I’m a huge baby when it comes to horror movies (or horror stories for that matter) and I don’t watch/read them as much as possible. I was actually a bit scared when I read the prologue and the first few chapters of this book because it talked about ghosts but I got over it. I was really interested in the premise because I haven’t read a book with a main protagonist who can see ghosts but I didn’t really get into this book. I got put off by Chloe’s narration and the way she kept asking questions in her mind. I get that she’s confused by everything that’s happening but I felt like it felt too long for her to figure things out and I had to wait before things could be revealed. That said, the latter part of the book was faster-paced that the earlier part. When I got near the end, I stayed up reading because I wanted to finish the book.

Again, this is probably just a case of “this book wasn’t meant for me” because I’ve heard good things about it. I am curious as to what will happen next to Chloe because the book ended on a cliffhanger but it’s not like I want to rush out and buy The Awakening. *sigh* I’ve yet to find an urban fantasy series to love. Lament, I have high hopes for you!

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This book is one of my entries in the Once Upon a Time challenge.