Title: I’ll Give You The Sun (2014)
Author: Jandy Nelson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 371 pages
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life.
The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
The only reason why I picked up this book is because everyone has been saying how amazing it is. The blurb didn’t exactly entice me — the phrase ‘broken, beautiful boy’ kind of turned me off (and will turn me off regardless of whatever else the book promises) and as a general rule, I’m not a fan of alternate perspectives either.
The first thing you need to know about I’ll Give You The Sun is that it’s quite a different book than all the other contemporary YA novels out there. Twins Noah and Jude were best friends up until something happened between them and their idyllic life, their perfect family, broke into a million pieces. This book is essentially a snapshot of their relationship, now and then and before and after.
The plot focuses not on romance or even coming-of-age; rather it delves deep into the intricacies of family relationships. Noah and Jude are both terribly flawed and terribly complex. They love each other. They hate each other. They admire and want the other to do well, but at the same time, they’re envious of each other enough to sabotage one another.
What’s great is that this complexity, this flawed-ness, isn’t specific to our POV characters either. The supporting cast was also filled with wonderfully flawed, wonderfully complex people. No one character is one-dimensional here — no one character is 100% good or 100% bad.
“Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,” I say. “Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.”
Everyone else falls in this spectrum of greyness, because more than anything else, these characters are human. They’re selfish. They say awful things and sometimes mean them. They drink much more than they ought to. They get angry and snap back at people who don’t deserve it. They’re driven by the need for revenge, sometimes. They misplace blame but avoid admitting that some things are their fault.
But this is where things start to go wrong for me. I am quite ambivalent about Nelson’s writing style, which people have said to be one of the best things about this book. Instead of lyrical and beautiful, I found it to be overly metaphorical and hyperbolic. For me the story simply took way too long to get to the point, and by the time we did get to the point, my brain was already too exhausted from trying to figure out what the hell just happened. Sentences like this:
Her big, blue eyes are shining on me. All the hornet’s buzzed out of her. And there’s no spider to her at all.
… and this:
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.
… and plenty others I’m sure were meant to be pretty, but was way too long-winded for me. The words are beautiful, but there are too many of them, and some of them don’t make sense at all (to me), and I feel like the plot often got lost in the writing. The story might be meaningful, but the execution failed miserably for me — I didn’t actually enjoy my reading experience.
I actually hovered between a two-star rating and a three-star rating, but ended up giving it three. Despite my reservations, I do believe that I’ll Give You The Sun has carved itself a little bit of a niche in the wider YA genre — it offers a much-needed, rather rare focus on family that not all YA books have. The characters were flawed, complex and three-dimensional, their problems incredibly realistic and their emotions incredibly human. Unfortunately, it was the writing style that let me down the most, in the end.
I feel like I’m in the minority with this book, but I’d still love to hear your thoughts! Link me to your review or let me know what you think in the comments. ❤