Novel: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson | Goodreads
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.
I think this is the strangest book I’ve read this year which is such a compliment. After reading such a polished, gorgeous book like The Sky is Everywhere, I never expected the same author to be capable of something as messy and vibrant. They both have the same effect – that soul-deep emotional connection and clarity – but with incredibly different atmospheres. In the name of being honest, I’ve wholeheartedly avoided reading I’ll Give You the Sun because I never particularly wanted to “taint” my experience with The Sky is Everywhere by holding Jandy Nelson to some unattainable, singular standard with her second book. I was entirely wrong.
Her sophomore book was completely different yet equally powerful. I don’t mean to directly juxtapose I’ll Give You the Sun with The Sky is Everywhere but there are definite parallels. Instead of scattered poems, art references and “bible verses” and synesthesia pepper the story with color. There’s art scattered throughout it, which I appreciated because I’m an art history nerd. The writing reminded me of We Were Liars, actually, with the jolting language and emotion that lent itself to many surprises.
The entire premise of the book is based on the idea that neither perspective has the full story – they each have half. That structure set up various plot twists and reveals that never felt forced but instead organically emerged from the story.
The first point of view is thirteen-year-old Noah as he experiences events in real-time: his parents growing apart, his attraction to other guys, and his distance from his sister. His desperation to make it into an art school saturates the story with this frantic feel, lighthearted from his wittiness but heavy from the sadness he notices. He actually reminded me a lot of Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower and therefore might not be for everyone, but I adored him.
The second point of view is sixteen-year old Jude, who’s absolutely bizarre. She used to be a hornet-girl, one of the girls who wore lipstick and chased the boys and spent every night at a friend’s house, but after a death in the family, she’s done with that. She’s superstitious, convinced that her ghosts are haunting her. So she sucks lemons and hides onions in sweatshirts and for some reason, her art projects are always destroyed in freak accidents. So she sets off to work in stone, to find a project that her ghosts can’t destroy. But the sculptor she finds to mentor her has his own demons. And the boy who lives with him is even worse.
Both perspectives are stuck in the past and in all their personal issues, from romances to family problems to what coming-of-age really means. There’s grief and there’s triumph. As the twins start to reconnect, they start to piece together what really happened three years ago, and what’s going on now.
One of the best parts of the book for me was how each perspective was really distinct. Noah’s perspective felt like a thirteen-year-old boy and Jude’s felt like a sixteen-year-old girl, both rooted in their individual personality traits. I loved seeing the flaws on both sides and how they reconciled.
The twin bond was done so well. I was in awe. There are very few authors – much less authors who aren’t twins – who can pull off twin books with the authenticity that they deserve; it’s closer than siblings and more intimate than best friends, and I was overjoyed to see how Jandy Nelson was able to portray that between Jude and Noah even as they developed separately.
I loved how so much of the story hinged on their relationships with their parents, in the present and in the past. They each had different perceptions of who their parents were, and that contrast was fascinating. There was jealousy tied in there, and some childlike innocence that balanced out some of the darkness in fully-fleshed, realistic tones.
The romances were nice, but felt a little underdeveloped. They connected smartly though, and contained the explosive language that made Nelson’s book so phenomenal and made the romance really fun to read. It’s definitely a romance, but it’s not only a romance. Everything else overshadows that.
The subplots weave together beautifully. It’s really messy at the beginning – in a pleasant way, in a lyrical way – but glue together at the end to become circular. That crisp connection between each element at the end is one of the reasons why this book was such a success for me.
I’ve been struggling trying to pinpoint the words or the elements that made me love the book so much. I adored it and connected to each of the characters in ways that made me feel as if they were living people I knew.
In essence, this book is a light. I love love loved the characters, and how they interacted, and the art within this, and the language. This book is a love letter to many beautiful aspects of growing up and the tremendous personalities of Jude, Noah, and the people around them. I don’t think it’s for everyone but I loved it. I think a lot of people will appreciate it.