I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You the SunJude and Noah are twins. They are so close that they finish one another’s sentences. They can communicate without talking. When they play Rock-Paper-Scissors, they can never make a decision, because they always choose the same thing. They are NoahandJude.

Their parents are both professors, but their mom is the artistic one. Noah pictures her walking on air all the time. Their dad is a jock, and Noah believes that Dad is disappointed in him because he is not interested in sports at all; he’d rather be drawing or painting. Above all, Noah does not want his father to find out that he’s gay.

Jude is so close to her grandmother that when she dies, Jude hangs onto the book of superstitions and sayings that she assembled and calls it her bible. As life starts to unravel for the twins, Jude works hard to rearrange the world by carrying an onion in her pocket or arranging shells on her windowsill.

When their mother decides that the twins should apply to the local arts high school, Noah and Jude experience competition and jealousy as they never have before. Both are sure that the other will be accepted, and their dark emotions come into play as they go through all of the struggles of growing up. As the story jumps three years into the future, we see how the twins’ lives have been changed by the tragic mistakes they made in the past. Told in alternating chapters by each sibling, readers experience both perspectives first-hand.

I’ll Give You the Sun won the Printz Award this year, and since I’ll be attending the Printz reception and hearing Jandy Nelson’s acceptance speech in San Francisco this June, I put it at the top of my list. I read her debut, The Sky Is Everywhere, several years ago when it was first published, and I remembered how sad it was. When I’ll Give You the Sun came out, I wasn’t sure that I could bear to experience that much sorrow again. It is the mark of a good writer that you do feel all of the emotion that they intend, so I will say that Jandy Nelson is a very good writer! Noah and Jude’s story is absolutely tragic most of the time. Both of them make choices that cause the reader to cringe and then dread the consequences. There are wonderful secondary characters, too, who also lead lives filled with sorrow. Thankfully, since this is a coming-of-age novel par excellence, everyone learns from the past and moves forward with greater wisdom—scarred,  yet all the more beautiful for it.

I’ll Give You the Sun is compelling and absorbing. I could not wait to get back to it at the end of each workday, and I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of the artistic process. However, as a realistic teen story, there is quite a bit of sexual content from different orientations— wondering about sex, wanting to have sex, having sex, sexual regrets, and on and on. So, not for tweens. Rather, this one is recommended for older teens and adults.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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