Meet my new favorite novel.
I was a huge fan of Jandy Nelson’s first book, The Sky is Everywhere, but for some reason, I was really slow to pick up her second book after it was finally released last year. On the bright side, this means I got the emotional-rollercoaster-esque pleasure of reading it now, at just the time I needed it.
I’ll Give You The Sun is the story of two twins who grow apart, before and after a tragedy. The “before” story belongs to thirteen year old Noah, an aspiring artist and outsider who sketches constantly and dreams of going to art school. He used to be inseparable from his twin sister Jude, but recently she’s turned into a popular surfing daredevil, scornful of his “weirdness” and jealous of his talent and closeness with their mom. When the charismatic stargazer Brian moves next door, Noah instantly falls in love, but does Brian feel the same way?
The “after” belongs to the sixteen year old Jude, a superstitious, closed-off sculptor who’s failing out of art school and has barely spoken to her more-popular brother in years. When she decides that she needs to create a stone sculpture to send a message to her dead mother, she sets out to convince a local unpredictable artist to mentor her. In the process, she meets Oscar, a blatant “don’t go near him, he’s trouble” guy who tests her self-imposed boy boycott.
As the back of the book says, Jude and Noah each only have half of the story. They know half of what happened to their family, half of what happened to their mom, half of what happened to their relationship with one another. They moved seemingly irreparably apart, but they need to move past their guilt and resentment and talk to one another in order to piece the truth together.
I’ll admit, when I read the first page, my main thought was, “I can’t read this.” Nelson’s writing is very metaphorical and poetic, and it takes a couple of pages to get used to it. But once I did, the writing style felt emotional but natural, and made perfect sense in the context of melodramatic tortured-artist-soul Noah and closed-off, guilt ridden Jude. It’s very artsy, but the whole book is about the emotional power of art, so somehow, it works.
And when I say it works, I mean it really, really works. This book is beautiful and emotionally devastating and revealing and uplifting and generally wonderful.
It’s not flawless, of course. I had some issues with the romance, in particular — not with how they’re written, as it’s very easy to get swept up with both stories, but in an objective, “seriously, Jude, this guy may be charismatic but he’s also 19 and this is not a good idea” way. But beyond a little frustration in the moment, this didn’t really affect my feelings on the book.
I’ll Give You The Sun absolutely captivated me. It’s one of my favorite books of all time, flaws and all. I’m completely in love.
Please read it.