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I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson - Review by Kathleen, Teen Blogger


“Some books are just meant to be in each other’s lives.”I'll Give You The Sun - book cover

I’m paraphrasing this line: “Maybe some people are just meant to be in each other’s stories”, from Jandy Nelson’s second YA novel, I’ll Give You the Sun. I believe Nelson is hitting a poignant truth here, but it goes beyond the context of her book and applies to real life, even if it’s something as simple as a book. I believe that some people are meant to read certain books, and those books are meant to change you, make you grow, and see the world with eyes that are no longer foggy.

I’ll Give You the Sun tells the story of twins Noah and Jude. Their stories are told in alternating timelines, with Noah’s spanning ages thirteen to fourteen, and Jude’s when the two of them are sixteen years old. This way of telling the story was one of the first things I loved about it. Sometimes, one character is more relatable at one point of their life, and that’s the best time to tell their story. The way the characters narrate is completely different in each half, something that many authors struggle with when using multiple viewpoints.

Noah is a young, talented artist who has made himself into a recluse. Slowly, he finds himself falling in love with boy-next-door Brian Connelly. Their slow romance is almost certainly the best part of the book, and Nelson perfectly captures the fear of being a gay teen falling in love with your best friend. Notably, while being two boys comes into play later on, it is not the focal point of their story. It’s a love story relatable to any teen a little bit afraid of how they’re feeling. Noah describes everything in self portraits (“Self portrait: Two boys racing into darkness”), which is an interesting little quirk that enhances what he’s already told you in his narrative. Nelson shows her skills as a poet in Noah's section, and when I had finished the book, I knew that Noah Sweetwine was one of the best YA protagonists I had read about in a very long time.

Flash forward three years to Jude’s sections of the book. She is sixteen years old and, due to a tragic incident in her past, has gone off boys entirely. Her section surprised me in how much I ultimately liked it. In Noah’s portion of the book, she is rather unlikeable. She sneaks out, is rude to her mother, and is the epitome of a bratty teenager. Later, though, we see the insecurities that make up that scared little girl, and she certainly redeems herself.

While Noah’s section focused on portraits and colours, Jude’s incorporated ghosts. In her storyline, she is regularly visited by the ghost of her grand-mother and another figure I will not name so as not to spoil. (AFIWNNSANTS will be our name for this figure.) AFIWNNSANTS breaks every sculpture that Jude makes, and so she enlists the help of an old man who sculpts (with the same stone that his heart appears to be made out of). Along the way, she meets Oscar, a mysterious English bad boy who had an encounter with Noah earlier in life. This was the only part of the story I didn’t love: the romance between Jude and Oscar is cliché and doesn’t show us anything new and interesting. When compared with how fresh and original the rest of the book is, it’s sad to see this storyline delve into overused tropes and the allure of a ‘sexy, English bad boy'. Despite this, the romance isn’t terrible, and fortunately, Jude’s storyline has far more to offer than her love interest. Her romance also produces one of the most beautiful lines in the book, so perhaps it’s worth it for that alone.

This book has shot up to my list of favourite books that I have been carefully refining for years. Its prose is captivating and the characters are engaging. This book will leave you in what I like call a book coma, where for several days after finishing it you want to go back and read the whole thing over again while simultaneously wanting to share it with everyone you know.

Some books chaThe Sky Is Everywhere - book covernge lives. And others change the world. I want the whole world to read this book, and I want the whole world to be changed by it.

Kathleen,

Teen Blogger

P.S.: Put this on hold at your preferred library, along with Nelson’s other book, The Sky is Everywhere. After the pleasure that was I’ll Give You the Sun, I’ll happily join you.

[Editor's Note: This book won the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award, an award for 'literary excellence in young adult literature'.]

 

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