I'll Give You the SunHot
This book is beautiful. I just cannot even with how amazing this book actually is. If you loved The Sky Is Everywhere, I think that you’ll love I’ll Give You the Sun too. Nelson’s working through a lot of the same subject matter in this one: family, grief, sex. There’s that poetic feel to the writing that runs between both novels too. In I’ll Give You the Sun, I feel like Nelson’s just gotten more talented. I’ll Give You the Sun does rather feel like it’s shining to life beneath your fingers, giving you the sun in the world of Noah and Jude.
You know a book is fabulous when I love it despite an almost 100 page chapter. My attention span is not long. I’ll Give You the Sun wrapped me in its sway immediately. Both Noah and Jude have such unique points of view, and they both positively burst with life. Both perspectives held my interest fully. Noah’s POV follows the past events leading up to their mother’s death, the breaking of the family. Jude’s perspective follows the current timeline and depicts them finally dealing with everything that happened two years before. Like Jude’s art for so many years, the novel is the breaking and then the gluing back together into something more beautiful for its cracks.
I’ll Give You the Sun bursts with color, rather like the cover suggests. I’ll Give You the Sun is full of artists. Their mother was an art critic. Jude sculpts. Noah paints and sketches. Then there’s Guillermo Garcia, a master carver Jude goes to for an apprenticeship. I, for one, am almost entirely lacking in artistic talent. I tend not to even be all that interested in art. Yet somehow these perspectives really brought the art to life. Noah constantly paints in his head, coming up with portraits and self-portraits he wants to do. They’re interpretations of his emotions and I could see them so vividly, his artistic impulse shared with me. With Jude and Guillermo, you can feel the art trying to come out of the stone. One of my favorite things about reading is when a book can make me care about something I don’t and really truly make me feel like I intrinsically understand what it would be like to be someone different. What is it like to have an artistic impulse? THIS.
Much like The Sky Is Everywhere, the drama is high. I could see this being distancing for some readers. There are affairs and scandals and betrayals and misunderstandings. Rather like the writing, which could easily have felt purple and overblown, it all just feels so right and perfect. Jude and Noah have such strong personalities. They’re the sort of people to live large and live strange. They were never going to live quiet ordinary lives, so the drama really fits. If you told me about what happened, I would probably roll my eyes, but in context everything just works.
One of my obsessions is magical realism, and I’ll Give You the Sun has this in spades. Jude interacts with the ghost of her grandmother and is haunted by the ghost of her mother, who breaks her sculptures. Noah believes the ghost of his mother holds him up when he cliff dives. Jude’s perspective is riddled with family wisdom, little spells to ward off love or increase it and any number of other things. Obviously, you can believe that Jude’s just crazy, but I prefer to believe there’s a little magic in the world. Also, I love that Jude and her grandmother call God Clark Gable. OMFCG, it’s so much fun.
Both twins have romances. Personally, I prefer Noah’s, which should be a surprise to no one. For one thing, Jude and Oscar instalove all over one another. Yeah, I didn’t rate down for that. Again, it’s something that feels really right in context, but it’s still not a massive ship for me. Noah’s romance with Brian, however, is a slow burn and when they finally kiss it is hot. Thank you, Jandy Nelson, for that really wonderful gay kiss scene, because YES.
The Final Verdict:
I really don’t have that much more to say to try to describe this book to you and explain why I loved it so much. It’s something you really have to experience, to let wash over you like sunshine or waves. On paper, I don’t think it will ever sound as good as it actually is. I’ll Give You the Sun is a book that will either work for you, holding you in its sway and capturing your imagination, or that very much won’t. I really hope I don’t have to wait another four years for the next Jandy Nelson novel, but I will wait however long I must.
I loved how it wasn’t necessarily a love story — though, there is the cutest romance between Noah and the boy next door that I wanted so much more from — but a story about second chances and the relationship between siblings. I also loved the scene between Noah and Brian where they are in Noah’s room together… figuring things out… and wow. I did not see it going there and was rather pleased Jandy didn’t shy away from such a powerful moment for those boys.
What Left Me Wanting More:
The Writing style is very "purple" and confusing.
Some of it was really nice, like so:
“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.”
Other times I felt like I was stuck in paintball war of words:
“My heart leaves, hitchhikes right out of my body, heads north, catches a ferry across the Bering Sea and plants itself in Siberia with the polar bears and ibex and long-horned goats until it turns into a teeny-tiny glacier.
Because I imagined it.”
Then some of the time, it made me laugh:
“For the record, I’m in the midst of a penis panic attack.”
Only to feel like I was drowning in a rainbow ocean:
“He floated into the air high above the sleeping forest, his green hat spinning a few feet above his head. In his hand was the open suitcase and out of it spilled a whole sky of stars.”
WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? I think I’m way too much of a cynic to jive with this kind of writing. It was like Shatter Me went on an acid trip and threw up all over my pages.
Still, I’m impressed with Jandy because both Noah and Jude’s chapters were VERY different from each other, containing two different narration styles. Honestly, she pulled it off well. I never had trouble figuring out whose chapter I was reading: Noah liked to abuse metaphors and Jude talked in fragments to her dead grandmother. How Jandy managed to do this so flawlessly is beyond me, but clearly it’s the mark of a very talented writer.
Overall: Your love for I’ll Give You the Sun will depend entirely on how you feel about the writing style. It’s can be VERY jarring in the beginning, but the story itself is pretty good.
Jandy Nelson juggles the dual perspectives and timelines masterfully, and readers will find themselves rooting for both characters in a way that is rare when faced with more than one main character. Noah and Jude are funny, flawed, and real, and this is a novel that should be on every young adult's bookshelf.
Probably readers who already liked Nelson's debut novel will enjoy this one too, also people who like artistic/lyrical writing and purple prose.