Review: “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson

Review: “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy NelsonI'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Published by Penguin on September 16th 2014
Format: Hardcover
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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.

[Warning: review partially written under the influence of this heady, intoxicating book. Language may or may not have been hijacked by Noah Sweetwine’s incredible voice.]

Oh, man. I would review this just by stringing together quote after beautiful quote if I could! Seriously, I could do it. I liked about 23 quotes on Goodreads. (My secret mission may or may not be to convince you to read it from the quotes alone. 😉 )

“Who knows if [maybe] destiny is just how you tell yourself the story of your life?”

As mentioned in the synopsis, I’ll Give You the Sun has a really unique structure — and it creates a one-of-a-kind story that you can’t forget. The book has 2 POVs: the first being Noah as he narrates their life at about 13 years old, and the second being Jude as she narrates their life at 16. During the time between the two perspectives, it’s clear that some major things have happened that have caused the twins to painfully grow apart until they hardly recognize each other. Both POVs feature pivotal moments in their lives as the reader tries to piece together what happened.

“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.”

Though I hesitate to use the term (because I’m not sure that it accurately describes it, though it’s the only word I really have), the book is full of magical realism and I absolutely LOVED it! It took a little time to adjust, wondering if some of the outrageous things described we really happening, but once I learned to roll with it, there was no going back. For me, it magnified the emotions of everything that was happening and made it that much stronger and dizzyingly brilliant. It made the ordinary extraordinary.

“There’s something going on in his face right now, something very bright trying to get out — a dam keeping back a wall of light. His soul might be a sun. I’ve never met anyone that had the sun for a soul.”

And this book just has so many “-isms,” I’ll-give-you-the-sun-isms. Things that make the book so special and types of “inside jokes” that people who haven’t read the book would be utterly confused by. Like that you should probably cry if I call you a “broken umbrella,” or that you should be pretty angry if I call you a “toilet-licking, garbage-headed scum-sucker.” (Then again, maybe that one’s not so hard to figure out, haha.) And Clark Gable knows that you shouldn’t just go around handing out oranges to people because that is DANGEROUS.

Each different perspective is also broken up by snippets unique to each POV that are so like that character, and provide insight. Noah’s snippets are the portraits he paints in “the invisible museum” of his mind (he’s an artist). Jude’s are prices of bizarre advice and remedies found in the “bible” she inherits from her grandmother (she’s a bit superstitious). I enjoyed them so much!

(SELF-PORTRAIT: Boy Rowing Madly Back Through Time)
If a boy gives a girl an orange, her love for him will multiply

But undeniably, it was really Noah Sweetwine who stole the show. This boy. I LOVE THIS BOY. I don’t think I couldn’t like him even if I tried. (And trying would be a terrible crime.) His voice is so purely honest and emotional. At 13 Noah is shy but passionate, his whole world awash in colors and images, and his whole life is his art. He feels like no one understands him but Jude.

“It occurs to me that Jude does this too, changes who she is depending on who she’s with. They’re like toads changing their skin color. How come I’m always just me?”

That is, until he meets Brian. The way Noah describes Brian is like a heaven-sent being. (PORTRAIT, SELF-PORTRAIT: The Boy Who Watched the Boy Hypnotize the World) Brian is nerdy just like Noah, and he has this incredible inner energy. Noah’s world shifts as soon as he meets him, because he finally finds someone else who understands him. Their feelings for each other are exhilarating and warm, tentative and infectious. I’ll confess, I had I only read two other LGBTQ romance books before this, and neither were great. But Brian and Noah? Their romance blows EVERYTHING out of the water.

“I’m thinking the reason I’ve been so quiet all those years is only because Brian wasn’t around yet for me to tell everything to.”

Onto Jude, “the patron saint of lost causes.” Yes, while it took me a little while to warm up to Jude — she isn’t exactly warm and huggable — she eventually won me over. At 16 Jude is a girl lost, hiding from the world with her life “on pause.” She’s struggling to deal with so many unresolved issues in her life that she’s kind of buried herself and resorted to her superstitious “bible-thumping,” and above all, her boycott. But you see the she does have a strong will and plenty of determination, and that she has so much guilt that is just tearing her up inside. She does care, she just needs to remember that it’s ok to show it.

“I think you can sort of slip out of your life and it can be hard to f ind a way back in.”
“What if I’m in charge of my own damn light switch?”

I first decided to pick up this book because of Noah and Jude’s sibling-hood, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a big part of the story, but also not the central focus — I guess I’d say it’s like a very crucial frame to the story that is all-important, but not always the center of attention. I’m sure that anyone who is close with their siblings can relate pretty well, but as a triplet myself, everything about them hit me so hard and reminded me of my sisters and I. Their famous shoulder-to-shoulder “smush” pose that makes them feel complete together, the way they play at splitting up the world for world domination — even the way they both marry a madrone tree when they were five (with Jude also being the minister). Their incredible closeness and shared imagination felt so familiar. And the way Jude worries about how much Noah has changed and how their relationship is nonexistent — it KILLED me inside.

When twins are separated, their spirits seal away to f ind the other

And there’s so much more to discover that I didn’t touch on if you read the book. Two other amazing characters, another fated romance, tangibly heartbreaking family issues, more awesome art stuff, ghosts, jealousy, donuts, penis panic attacks… wait, what? I guess you’ll just have to read it to find out. * mwah ha ha ha *


If you’ve ever thought about starting this book, START IT. If you’ve never heard of this book, well, you have now, so READ IT ALREADY!

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Comments

  • YESSS, ISN’T IT GREAT? I was a bit skeptical at first (and weirded out by the writing style), but it really grew on me throughout the book. AND YOU’RE A TRIPLET? That’s so cool!

    • IT REALLY IS! I’m so hooked on the style now, I might find it a bit hard to return to more normal contemporaries. And yup, triplet here! It’s funny how in real life I forget to tell people sometimes and then they flip out when they do know. ? And both my sisters like reading, thank goodness!

  • I agree, the quotes alone are worth the read, but the story is great to boot! I actually have to re-buy this because I gave away my copy (I know, I know, but it was for a book that I NEEDED and I can always buy it again!) because I loved the writing so much. I agree, I loved Noah and came to love Jude too. This was such a lovely book, and I think it is so great that you included some of the great lines (and quirks!) that it had to offer!

    • Nooooo your precious book! I would be at the bookstore replacing it, STAT! While there I would probably pick up The Sky Is Everywhere as well, because I NEED MORE JANDY!! Her writing is so great. The quirkiness demanded to be captured!

  • I completely agree with you 110% Lina! This was such an amazing story, and I loved it too! 🙂 I think the way the relationship between Jude and Noah was portrayed was so realistic and accurate, and I loved the way it was explored and written. I agree that it took a little bit to warm up to, but once you got into the story it was the kind of thing you just couldn’t put down. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥
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