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 don’t think I can properly review this book without just throwing flails and gifs and barbaric yawps into the air. It’s that lovely, that exquisite that any review I write will just pale in comparison to the writing in the book. That said…I want you to read this book, so I have to try.
P.S. I borrowed all the quote gifs from Penguin Teen, because who doesn’t want to see more of that gorgeous cover?!
I’ll Give You The Sun is probably the most literary and imaginative YA novels I’ve ever read. Everything works – the writing is expressive and nuanced, with unique imagery. You can really tell that Jandy Nelson thought and thought, and thought again about every word in the novel. Every metaphor, every description fits in with the themes of breaking and remaking, family and relationships, art and inspiration. It’s an incredibly tight novel, and it’s one that could easily have been placed in the literary fiction section of a bookstore.
The themes of I’ll Give You The Sun are explored exquisitely – and the plot follows in a very sophisticated manner. This is a definitely a form-follows-function book – but it’s done so damn brilliantly that you’ll be in awe. The premise/form of the book is that Noah and Jude, fraternal twins, each have their own side of the story, Noah at age 13 and Jude at age 16. As a reader, we see both sides and how mistakes and choices change and shape each of them. The brilliance comes through how each reveal is made – to the reader and to the characters. And what makes the book even more complex is how each of those reveals follows the themes of breaking and remaking, of splitting apart and coming together that shape the characters and the novel.
The characters and relationships between them are full and clearly realized. I already mentioned the premise of the book, but let me just say that Noah and Jude are probably the most flawed and complex teen characters I’ve read EVER. I honestly can’t think of more broken, fragile and alive characters that exist in YA fiction. We get every crazed, messed-up thought in their heads, all of their stupid actions, all of their esoteric behaviors…and it’s just gorgeous to behold.
I’ll Give You The Sun has one of the most realistic – and sexy – LGBTQ relationships I’ve ever read. This sounds weird to say, but in most YA I’ve read, I’ve never had to fan myself at a gay relationship – maybe that says more about what I read than what I don’t read. This book, however, had what I imagine to be a very realistic gay relationship in its teens, and it’s tumultuous and hard and beautifully steamy at a few moments.
The portrayal of art and the way it touches people will leave you inspired. I am probably the worst artist in the world (I can’t even draw a straight line), but I was amazed and gratified by how art shapes the characters, how it changes and hurts them, and how it strengthens them. Art is almost like a secondary character in this book, and the way that Noah and Jude create and destroy is not just a metaphor for what they do but it almost turns into a way of living for them.
The romances are soul-crushing and soul-illuminating. Here’s the thing: when Noah and Jude meet their respective partners, it’s pretty much instantaneous intrigue. It’s not quite total insta-love, but it’s close. You guys know how I feel about insta-love (and one of them is a bad boy!)…but somehow, Jandy Nelson’s writing can break all my rules and make me believe. I’m just going to give you one unbelievable passage, and you tell me you’re not intrigued and kind of in love:
I know he’s taking a hundred pictures, but I don’t care anymore. A hot series of shivers is running through me as he continues clicking and saying: Yes, thank you, this is totally bloody it, perfect, yes, yes, sodding hell, God, look at you. It’s like we’re kissing, way more than kissing. I can’t imagine what my face must look like.
“You’re her,” he says finally, putting the cover over the lens. “I’m sure of it.”
“Who?” I ask.
But he doesn’t answer, just walks down the aisle toward me, a lazy, lanky walk that makes me think of summer. He’s completely unwound now, went from high gear to no gear the moment he covered the lens. As he approaches, I see that he has one green eye and one brown eye, like he’s two people in one, two very intense people in one.
Jandy Nelson perfectly understands how closely entwined joy and sadness are. Guys, Jandy Nelson KNOWS. She understands why exquisite happiness is sometimes achieved only through understanding loss. She understands how grief can engulf and change and break a family, and how art can save and remake us. I don’t know how else to explain the mingled feelings of happiness, bittersweet joy, and infinite sadness that engulfed me while reading except to say that Jandy Nelson is the YA Walt Whitman.
The Final Word:
I could go on and on about I’ll Give You The Sun, but honestly, it won’t hold a candle to the book itself. If you like literary novels, if you want all the feels, this book needs to be on top of your TBR list. Read it now. Bask in the beauty. And then give it to a friend, because a book this good demands to be shared.
I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is out now. Are you reading it or will you be reading it soon (read the first 55 pages here!)? Are you into literary books? How about art in books? Have you read Jandy Nelson’s first book, The Sky is Everywhere (I haven’t, but I will be soon)? Is that not one of the most gorgeous covers you’ve ever seen? Let me know in the comments!