title: I'll Give You the Sun
author: Jandy Nelson
buy it: Amazon Goodreads B&N
rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 9/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: People who love We Were Liars by E. Lockhart or sleepy, meandering reads. Fans of art and good writing. Lost souls.
will i read this author again?: Already have her first book on my shelf, waiting.
will i continue the series?: N/A
My Ratings Explained
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.
take home message
A tense, artful tale of broken stories and broken people, and the ways they come back together. With memorable characters and gorgeous prose, this book will be an easy favorite for anyone who struggles to feel magical.
the basicsAfter one-more-chapter-ing myself into oblivion, I finished this book at 3am--and immediately bought Jandy's first book with my phone. That's the brilliance of this novel. Give it to your friends who scoff at young adult. Nelson has incontrovertibly proved that books about teenagers can be insightful, gorgeously written, soul-achingly profound, and damn exciting. With the split narrative, Noah telling the earlier years, Jude the latter, Nelson plays with the way in which we hear and understand stories. Like her heroes, we never have all the pieces at once. Common characters and threads weave through both narratives, but not until the twins return to each other can they see the connections. The quirky, heart-rending plot is bolstered by earnest character, painterly prose, fine art, magic realism, and oranges. It's the kind of book that will linger, long after the final word.
plot . 5/5The book is told in alternating chapters. Noah narrates the early years, Jude the later years. Their narratives are gulfed by the death of their mother. In that time, they've been transformed. Electric, inspired Noah who fits in only in his painted worlds becomes the tolerably popular cross-country runner who doesn't touch a brush. Bold Jude with her surfing and flirting learns to fear her own shadow and hide in her hoodies. Characters crop up in both stories, lending an extra air of mystery to the plot. How do the threads connect? What happened that terrible summer? Together the plots form a stunning whole, but each is interesting on their own. Noah's is a tale of first love and artistic ambition. His soul aches for art school, the one place he might fit in, but he fears the natural talent of his sister. Their mother's favoritism causes a rift that leads both twins to throw horrific stones that ripple. Jude's story is a tale of boycotting love and broken dreams. Now in art school, without her brother, she turns to a famous sculptor to help her appease her mother's vengeful ghost. In Noah's story is an unraveling, in Jude's, a remaking. Though the end seemed a little too perfect to me, it didn't stop me from holding the book to my chest and basking in its literary perfection.
concept . 5/5To tell the divided stories of twins would be interesting. To tell it against the backdrop of artistic expression and subtle magic is brilliant. Art pervades every piece of the story, from plot to writing to character. Art reveals the characters' minds. It drives them apart and stitches them together. Destiny is another important motif, revealed in unexpected prophecies and ghostly murmurings. And magic, always magic, the kind that seems mystical and even more so the kind that feels mundane. Nelson takes the family drama to its most thrilling limit, fully exploring the idea of truth, love, and friendship, and ultimately, what it means to live.
characters . 5/5Characters rarely feel so strange and so real at the same time. Noah was my favorite, an ecstatic impulse, a thread of lightning bouncing across the page--until later, when his spark snuffs out. He thinks in terms of art and is so awkwardly hysterical that I actually laughed out loud. He's not innocent either; his spite and insecurity do plenty of damage. I actually hated Jude at first (as a person, not a character) for her cruelty and vindictiveness, until I came to understand her. She's a fairy caught in a bell jar, swelling with the impulse to live and create but too fearful to take the step. Deeply broken by her own childish mistakes, she struggles for redemption. The whole cast is brilliantly drawn. Brian is an elfin prince, at ease in the world of humans but harboring a fearful secret. Guillermo, carver of giants, is gruff and gentle, tortured by heartache into great feats of art. Oscar is dashingly British in every sense of the term, and wavers from self-destructive to redemptive, for Noah and Jude both. The twins' parents are the most complex. Their mother is deliberately enigmatic, with hints of caprice and selfishness. Their father is deliberately withdrawn, a ghost figure hanging on to an uncertainty. Then there's Jude's Grandma, the "ghost," a profoundly humorous addition who calls God "Clark Gable."
style . 5/5If you hadn't guessed, I love everything about Nelson's style. She writes with the eye of an artist. No word is wasted, no phrase tossed aside as fluff. Her prose is an explosion of adjectives and unexpected details that feels lush instead of purple. It just fits. It's also hysterical. She's a master of the kid of snarky humor that surprises you without trying too hard. For example: "'Honey, is there a reason why there's a very large onion in your pocket?' I look down at my illness deflector yawning open my sweatshirt pocket. I'd forgotten about it." I could quote you lines just as pretty and profound for days, but by the end, I'd have reconstructed the whole book. It's the kind of lilting, atmospheric prose that draws you into itself and holds your mind rapt. A rare gift, and executed stunningly.
mechanics . 5/5When I first read the title, I thought it was dumb. Yeah, yeah, cliches all around. Then I read the book and learned that it doesn't mean what you think it means, and what it does mean is so much more thrilling and profound than you could guess. Just another way in which Nelson shattered my expectations. The other strokes of genius were Noah and Jude's obsessions. Noah thinks in paint and portraits. Where another child might have an angsty inner monologue, he gives us: "(Self-Portrait: All the Glass Boys Shatter)". These portrait titles are scattered throughout his narrative and beautifully express both his emotions and his way of viewing life. Then there's Jude, obsessed with microbes and all the ways a person can die. Also obsessed with her grandmother's book of dubious magic and its teachings: "Soak a mirror in vinegar to deflect unwanted attention. (Back pocket.) To change the leanings of the heart, wear a wasp nest on the head (Not this desperate. Yet.)" As with Noah's portraits, Jude's superstitions are a clever way to reveal her character and her mind simultaneously. Also they're hysterical. There are clever motifs too, parrots named Prophet, boys in sketches, devil's dives--the kind of things you'll talk about in English class one day, that become sweetly satisfying as they reveal themselves.
Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.