I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Originally published: September 16, 2014
- ISBN-10: 0142425761
- ISBN-13: 978-0142425763
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.
Sometimes I come across great books in strange ways. I’ll purposefully walk down a random aisle at the library and start pulling books off the shelves until one speaks to me; I devour award-winning book lists and save them on my nightstand; this time, I first heard of the book on Twitter when someone said the book was amazing and recommended to read it.
I did. And so should you.
I’ll Give You the Sun is a beautifully written coming of age story that covers all the traditional topics – first loves and sibling rivalry – but with a colour and passion that is uncommon in adult novels let alone one in the young adult genre. This book made me remember how powerful emotions are during our teenage years – they make us into poets and actors and artists even if we end up losing those things with the weight of time and experience and life.
This story not only includes these typical themes, but Nelson also weaves in threads of grief and death and grit, of passion and disappointment and hope. All set against the backdrop of a quaint little oceanfront town that made me want to move to the seaside, which almost becomes a one of the characters itself.
It’s not easy to convey characters who are quirky oddballs without leaving the reader feeling that these people are not realistic, but Nelson does it beautifully. Noah’s brain and inner voice are a constantly exploding rainbow of vibrantly coloured scenes. Jude is a bit more circumspect, if having an ongoing dialogue with your dead grandmother counts as circumspect. Grannie dispenses such useful advice as always carrying an onion in your pocket to ward off evil, and Jude is so endearing that people seem to like her anyway. Embracing these characters reminds us to embrace our own inner weirdos, which is a fun side lesson for teen and adult alike.
Jude and Noah are both artists in their own way, and part of the story revolves around their admission into an elite art academy – the fortunes and misfortunes of each twin lead them down separate paths, and happily the reader is not quite sure which way the story will end.
For a teen novel, this book manages to deal with very adult themes in a PG-13 kind of way, without sacrificing any of the seriousness of the topics covered. I’ll Give You The Sun almost made me want to be a teenager again – if there was anything you even remotely miss about that time in your life, I recommend you read this book and relive a few of those bittersweet memories too.