It totally is.
I have to make this one a hacklet instead of a full hack because almost all the things I want to talk about are way too specific and spoilers in the sense that it was such a delight to come across certain little parts of this book and I’d hate to be that person who ruins someone else’s reading/watching/viewing/listening experience by nudging them and saying “Just WAIT until you get to the part where…!” I don’t want to be that guy.
So I’ll talk more generally. This book is full of all the elements that potentially make a book a turn-off for me: a love triangle, a bitchy rival, wall-to-wall quirky characters, Wuthering Heights references, a (yet another) main character numb with grief, a (yet another) missing mother, bits of poetry written by the griever, a love interest that acts like a jerk and yet is still pursued by the narrator, and to top it off, the reviled first person present tense (FPPT) narration. Toxic, right? Nope. This book made me yawp. An honest to goodness Whitman-esque yawp.
In fact, though very different, The Sky is Everywhere gave me the same feeling I get when I read that Whitman poem. Warm, expansive, tingly, full of feeling, earthy. Whitman’s poems invites you to take a sky’s eye view of life, and you can guess from the title, that this book does too. Nelson is very daring to explore the intensities of grief and love and how those wires can get dangerously intensified or even crossed. And yet despite these intense emotions, the book was expertly leavened by the right amount of humor.
I enjoyed this book so much that I had to stop reading a few chapters before the end, so that I wouldn’t have to leave it. The story ends perfectly, and yet I wish it had kept going on. I want to live some more with those characters. I think for now, I’ll go re-read that Whitman and yawp some more.
Lying to Others vs Lying to Yourself
Some redeeming elements; major hacking needed
Apparently it’s “YA Books about Younger Sisters Who Lie and Older Sisters with Psychological Problems Triggered by Strange Incidents” week here at LitHacker Central. First The Opposite of Hallelujah, now All You Never Wanted.
Verdict: This book seems to explore the different ways that lying to others and lying to yourself can be damaging. While this book has some strong writing and explores some interesting psychological issues, there are too many aspects that seem rather unrealistic, and the ending is somewhat abrupt. If you’re going to choose just ONE unstable older sister/lying younger sister book this week, choose The Opposite of Hallelujah instead.
Perfect for: People who like psychological fiction or somewhat unreliable narrators.
Summary: Thea and her older sister Alex are now living in a too-extravagant house (nicknamed “Camelot” by Thea) in tony Greenwich, Connecticut after their mom marries a rich man. Before this marriage, the girls and their divorced mother were barely getting by in their tiny apartment but they had each other and were pretty close. Now their mom seems to be always flying somewhere with her new husband – for vacations or charity events – and the girls are often left alone to adjust to their new reality. Told alternately in a forceful first person (Thea) and distancing third person (Alex), we learn that these sisters have dealt with the changes in their lives in very different ways. Formerly nerdy Thea has decided that conspicuous consumption and outrageous but borderline believable lies will make her interesting and popular. Meanwhile, Alex, who has always been somewhat of a golden girl, seems to be in the midst of a nervous breakdown that is getting progressively worse – for a specific reason that is revealed later in the novel. Continue reading
I really want to make a “Sister Act” pun but this book deserves better
Only one element needs hacking
Verdict: How many teen novels can you think of that explore the spiritual concept of “grace”? Or indeed address matters of spirituality at all without seeming, well, preachy? The Opposite of Hallelujah is unique in that it takes a teen’s spiritual development as seriously as it tackles issues about a teen’s romantic and family relationships. This is not a perfect book, but it thematically is a refreshing one to read.
Perfect for: Thoughtful readers who want realistic fiction with a unique perspective and plot. Readers who like reading about family relationships as much as they like reading about dating.
Summary: Eleventh grader Caro is a dedicated student who, after a rocky time in middle school, finally has established a good reputation, good friends, and is even starting to party and date some boys. But she feels that her whole world is threatened when she learns that her 27 year old sister, Hannah, is returning to live with her family. Caro barely remembers her sister, because eight years ago, Hannah entered a reclusive convent many miles away. Continue reading