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I'll Give You the Sun

Review

I'll Give You the Sun

I'm crying on the train. Jandy Nelson’s stunning second novel, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, is not the type of book you should read in public. I can guarantee that your emotions will range from ecstatically kooky happy to heart-wrenched and broken in a matter of pages. That being said, once I finished the book I immediately wanted to pick it up again and start over. I even knew that this was an instant classic about 50 pages in. 

Pablo Picasso said, “Art is a lie that tells the truth.” This couldn’t be a more fitting quote to describe I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN. There is so much heartbreaking truth in the story that follows twins Noah and Jude at different points in their lives. Noah’s sections are of him at 13, when he and his sister are close in the way only twins can be, as well as extremely competitive. They trade the moon, trees, and flowers in a game of world domination (which is the source of the title). Jude’s sections are when she’s 16 and it seems as if the twins are irreparably broken, as broken as their now motherless family can be. It’s not clear in the beginning how they got to such a state, but Jandy Nelson drops truth bombs and clues that us unsuspecting readers won’t quite understand until later, and once we do, the effect is nothing short of miraculous. Jandy Nelson paints the truest picture of broken things; people, families, art and even a narrative and mends them together just as well. 

I have heard that Jandy Nelson worked on this novel for a long time. It shows. The plotting is seamless. Everything falls into place as it should. She controlled the unfolding of information so well. Something innocuous that we found out in Noah’s section could unlock the key to a big secret in Jude’s and vice versa. This is one novel that I wish I could see the rough drafts of. I want to know the progression of characters and see the pieces of the puzzle come together just as Jandy Nelson did. 

"When I got to the end of this book, I felt out of breath. I wasn’t sure if I was broken by what I had read or a little bit more whole…. I’m also not sure if I’ll ever come down from the high I got while reading this book."

I also love that even the stories have stories in this novel. There are so many layers of this book. Noah’s chapters are interspersed with titles of portraits he makes up. He deals with his feelings and things that happen by creating an appropriate painting in his head. His mind is completely luminous. He’s incredibly gifted and throughout his narrative we’re treated to his inner thoughts in the form of art titles. For example: “(PORTRAIT: The Boy with All the Keys in the World with All the Locks)”

You can imagine what that might look like, and there are so many more of them, each so connected to how Noah feels and what he’s doing.

Jude is a bit different. She’s an artist too but doesn’t paint like Noah. Instead she sculpts sand women by the beach and lets the water wash them away. According to Noah, they’re incredible and he takes pictures of them to keep a record because she never acknowledges making them. By the time we meet Jude, she isn’t the same girl we saw through her brother’s eyes. She’s world-weary and scared. She no longer surfs and jumps off the cliffs by their house. She no longer hangs out with the same friends. She wears an invisibility uniform, a baggy sweatshirt and hat and tries to hide in her guilt. We’re not sure what her guilt is yet but we know she’s grieving. She’s also completely obsessed with “The Bible,” a collection of superstitions that her grandmother kept and her coping mechanism. The Bible provides a solution to problems and protections against them before they arise: “Always walk right foot first to avert calamity, which comes at you from the left.” Like Noah’s painting titles, Jude’s story is split up by these funny and often poignant clips from The Bible.

I love Noah and Jude. I love how Noah feels so passionately. I love that Jude puts protections in her classmates’ pockets because she thinks they need them. I love their connection to one another and how even when they’re breaking apart or broken, they try to find their way to each other. 

In fact, this novel is about many characters trying to find their way to each other. Just like deeply woven narratives, I love characters who are woven together and meant to meet. Noah, Jude, Brian, Guillermo, and Oscar are all meant to meet. Jandy Nelson writes each one as if they are the main protagonists in this novel. I would gladly read a book about any of them. This book is very mysterious and Guillermo Garcia, the definition of a tortured artist and the man who mentors Jude in finally sculpting her sand women, helms that mystery. His protégé, Oscar, is just as intriguing. I felt for these two deeply and wanted them to have closure as much as Noah and Jude. I also love Brian Connelly, the boy Noah falls in love with at the beginning of the book. His story could have been a bit cliché. He ended up bringing so much more to the novel than I realized. Like I said, I could have read a book about each character because Jandy Nelson divulged their information so organically and truthfully that it was as if I was reading about real people. These characters felt like family after awhile. It’s probably why it took so long to read it. Not only is this novel completely cerebral and heavy, but it’s so warm and welcoming. I wanted things to be okay for these characters because Jandy Nelson made them so real. 

When I got to the end of this book, I felt out of breath. I wasn’t sure if I was broken by what I had read or a little bit more whole, which is probably why I was crying so much on the train. I’m also not sure if I’ll ever come down from the high I got while reading this book. It’s really just amazing. It needs to win all the awards and be read by everyone. Twice. To use a quote that appears in the novel many times, it is a novel that is quite able to “remake the world.”

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on June 22, 2015

I'll Give You the Sun
by Jandy Nelson

  • Publication Date: October 6, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Young Adult 14+
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Speak
  • ISBN-10: 0142425761
  • ISBN-13: 9780142425763