‘Lucy in the Sky’ is more than the Beatles, but if they’re the reason you pick this book up, that’s terrific.
There’s a difference between knowing who a band is and really listening to their music. Ask most people who the Beatles are, and they can probably rattle off a few song titles or list the members of the band, but they’re also one of those groups you can take for granted and never fully explore.
For me, it was the movie musical, Across the Universe, that led me down a Beatles wormhole. For Lucy in Lucy in the Sky it’s a Beatles record she comes across in her father’s collection that acts as the catalyst for her to go through their entire discography.
Like any newfound obsession, Lucy’s love for the Beatles bleeds into different aspects of her life. Who else is Lucy going to dress up as on Halloween, for example? But while the Beatles becomes the soundtrack to Lucy’s seventh grade experience, writer, Kiara Brinkman, and artist, Sean Chiki, never overdo the references. Lucy in the Sky is about Lucy. The Beatles are strictly background.
As it is, Lucy has a lot going on in her life. Her parents are divorced. Her mom is on the go a lot for her job (she’s a photojournalist). Her grandmother, Cookie, has been undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
At school, Lucy and her friends are trying to start a band so they can enter the talent competition. One thing Brinkman and Chiki really have a gift for is capturing the fluid nature of friendships in middle school. There’s this false promise that a lot of middle grade stories propagate, where the main character always has one or two best friends. Lucy does have a friend group she shares a lunch table with (which, in middle school, was a big deal) but who she spends time with changes as the book goes on. These changes aren’t precipitated by big blow-ups, either. Some people don’t even realize it’s happening, while other friends take the adjustment hard (and Brinkman and Chiki give Lucy’s friends their own preoccupations, as well).
Another thing Brinkman and Chiki have a knack for is conveying what’s going on inside Lucy’s head. Lucy wears earbuds a lot, so they’ll often be song lyrics and no dialogue while she’s listening to music. In other scenes, instead of telling readers that Lucy’s working on homework or lost in an internet spiral, it’s all shown visually. Chiki is able to establish some regular hangouts for Lucy, so her world becomes very familiar and as much as 2012 doesn’t feel that long ago, in terms of music it really sets up some parameters. Brinkman may have Lucy buying physical CDS, but she acknowledges digital music.
The writing for Lucy’s relationship with her parents and grandmother is very mature and authentic, while Chiki’s lettering is easy and free flowing. One character finishes talking, and another starts – almost Howard Hawks-ian in style, without the emphasis on speed. Lucy in the Sky is more than the Beatles, but if they’re the reason you pick this book up, that’s terrific. This book deserves all your loving when it comes out on July 27th from First Second.