I’ll Give You the Sun
by Jandy Nelson
Original Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Length: 371 pages
Obtained Via: Library
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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’ll Give You the Sun is a beautiful book that is so full of love, and loss, and life, that it seems remarkable the story could have been contained in 371 pages. I’ll Give You the Sun was one of those rare books that settled deeply into my heart upon first reading and reminded me why I love books and stories so much in the first place. I know I’m gushing all over the book right now, but it is most definitely deserved for this important and gorgeous story.
I’ll Give You the Sun introduces to us the artistic twins Noah and Jude(and sometimes NoahandJude). The story is split in two timelines–one happening when the twins are thirteen/fourteen and the other when they are sixteen. In the earliest timeline, Noah and Jude are still NoahandJude–though they begin to drift due to circumstances. Both are artistic but Jude is popular and beautiful and likes to be social, whereas Noah is shy and awkward and barely talks. In the later timeline, Jude has hidden herself beneath baggy clothes and retreated, while Noah fits right in with the world around him. It’s a shocking change of pace, and the book explores how they got to where they did and how they move on from there.
Even though the main characters are Noah and Jude, there are so many fully-realized characters in this book. There’s an enigmatic artist, a former addict turned college student and art model, the boy next door who strikes up a friendship with Noah, and Noah and Jude’s parents. It’s rare for parents in a YA novel to get the kind of treatment that the parents in I’ll Give You the Sun receive. Noah and Jude don’t have great relationships with their parents most of the time, but as the story progresses it becomes clear how some of Noah and Jude’s preconceived notions about their own parents are wrong, and how hard their parents are really trying. It’s a really thoughtful exploration of family, even at the darkest time when everyone seems so messed up. I wouldn’t call the family healthy or functional, but they’re not made into the bad guys.
It’s rare for a contemporary to feel like so much is going on in the book, but there are a LOT of factors going into I’ll Give You the Sun. If I were to describe this book in two words, I think I would use “quietly intense”. It’s a very character-focused book with a lot of introspection, but the plot never slows down. It’s also a testament to Jandy Nelson’s writing that she uses conventions that often annoy me in lesser works but makes them brilliant here. So much of I’ll Give You the Sun is based upon misunderstandings, but because the characters are so rooted in who they are the miscommunication made sense to me instead of feeling like a cheap way to create conflict.
I’ll Give You the Sun did coming-of-age so well. Coming-of-age stories aren’t always my favorites(though when they’re done right they are–the thing is that they’re often so tricky), but I’ll Give You the Sun just worked because it didn’t point arrows to the big moments that changed everything(even when those moments were present). Despite the split timeline, the book never felt disjointed. Even when the characters were so different than their past selves, I as the reader understood exactly how they got there.
The highlight, however, of I’ll Give You the Sun was the writing. There were parts of the romance that I would have hated, except everything was so well-written and so interconnected that it just made sense, even when the romance moved fast. In a lesser book, I would have rolled my eyes and called it cheesy, but this book did everything so well that I loved every bit of it. The characters, the plot, EVERYTHING was just perfect. The writing itself is gorgeous, even though it took me a few pages to get into the rhythm. Nelson’s writing is unique and heavy on the metaphors, but it made perfect sense to me considering the two narrators of this book are both artists. I marked up so many passages to re-read. These are some of my favorites:
This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders.
‘Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,’ I say. ‘Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.
Quick, make a wish.
Take a (second or third or fourth) chance.
Remake the world.
As much as I can go on about how great the machinations of I’ll Give You the Sun are, what makes this book special is the sum of its parts. There’s so much life bubbling up from the pages of this novel that reading it felt a bit like being washed completely in life instead of retreating from it. It’s a special book, one I know I’ll return to over and over again, and place in other people’s hands.
I’ll Give You the Sun is potentially the best book 2014 book I’ve read. It’s an enchanting read filled with characters who jump off the page and pull you into their story, all while they make mistakes and break things and then, eventually, fix things. It’s exciting and intense in a quiet way that you don’t even notice until after you’ve finished. This book has a permanent place on my favorites shelf. 5/5 cupcakes.