Book Review: I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

I'll-Give-You-The-Sun-Book-Review.jpg

Title: I’ll Give You The Sun (2014)
Author: Jandy Nelson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Extent: 371 pages
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

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.

Review

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. 

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27 thoughts on “Book Review: I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

  1. Oh shit. Here I was opening this review, my mind assuming “let’s read a super positive 5/5 star for this book because [everyone and their critters have rated this book that high]” and it wasn’t! Not saying I’m shocked that you didn’t give it a higher/lower rating but I feel like I’m conditioned to think this book is perfection.

    Anyways. In many ways, I’m like you. I own the book (re hype) but nothing about it is enticing me. And it also doesn’t help hearing that there’s plenty of purple prose/sugary writing; which is a big hit-or-miss especially in contemporary novels and can borderline on pretentiousness. I feel like I’d appreciate the bulk of it…but would skim it to get to the point haha.

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    • Eep, I’m definitely kind of the black sheep – everyone else seems to love it to death, haha. I sometimes like sugary writing, but only during appropriate times, I think, and definitely not in every sentence. With this one I kind of feel like the whole book is bursting with sugary writing and moments to breathe are very few and far in between.

      I actually did skim quite a bit because I felt like I was forcing myself to read and the words just went past my head, so I would totally understand if you do. Hope you enjoy it more, though!

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  2. I couldn’t even finish it. The words were just so numerous and mostly pointless (to me). I’m all for pretty prose but is it so pretty to hide that there’s not a whole lot of anything going on? I don’t know I didn’t finish it lol. I might give it a try again later in the summer since I am a big mood reader and maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this title. Awesome review like always 🙂

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    • Sorry to hear that! There were definitely moments where I forced myself to read as well, and in the end I kind of skimmed quite a bit to get to the interesting bits. It’s unfortunate because EVERYONE seems to love it, haha. I just don’t think this kind of writing is for me, and I agree with you that the words were numerous and a bit pointless (to me). 😛

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  3. “[…] the phrase ‘broken, beautiful boy’ kind of turned me off […]”

    That phrase (and others similar) always raise a red flag for me, too.

    Excellent review, as always! Like Joey, I’m used to seeing glowing reviews; I think yours is only the second negative-ish one I’ve come across. I’ll definitely have to approach this book with caution (if at all).

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    • So glad I’m not the only one! It just generally always sounds pretentious to me… and like you (and Joey), the only reviews I’ve read for this book are pretty much glowing, haha. Kind of the odd one out here, but oh well. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was waiting for that review, ahah 🙂 I am in the majority, I guess, loving that book, but I can understand how the writing can be a turn-off for some people. It’s definitely the kind of writing that make that book a hit, or miss. I’m so, so glad to hear you loved the characters anyway, I think they definitely felt three-dimensional, and so real, with plenty of flaws, and in the end, that’s what made me care about this book so much. Even if I don’t agree with everything, the writing style is, in the end, definitely a matter of taste 🙂 Great review Reg! 🙂

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  5. I personally loved this one, but I can definitely see where you’re coming from. The writing style is definitely not for everyone. I am glad that you liked it despite that though! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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  6. I’m one of the majoity because I loved this book 🙂 but I have seen some less positive reviews which have the same issues with I’ll Give You the Sun that you did, mainly the metaphors in the writing were too much at times. I guess it all depends on the reader doesn’t it. But I’m sorry you didn’t like this book as much, especially if it was one that you expected to be amazing!
    I agree with you about that characters, the development of Noah and Jude was one of my favourite parts of this book because they were flawed and I loved that Nelson focused on their family relationship rather than either of their romantic ones.
    Great review as well! 😀

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    • Ooh, have you? I feel like I’ve only seen like one other negative review on WordPress, though I’ve seen others on Goodreads, haha.

      Yeah, it’s really unfortunate – I was kind of expecting to be blown away since EVERYONE seems to love it and sings it praises anytime they talk about the book… but oh well. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t seen many negative reviews on WordPress, I think they were more in Goodreads. I’ve seen reviews like yours where I’ll Give You the Sun was given a good rating but the writing was mentioned as a negative point.
        Yeah it’s always a little disappointing, more so when it is a book that’s so hyped but it happens every now and again. I don’t think there’s one book out there which every single person has loved and given a five star glowing review!

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  7. I still haven’t gotten around to read this book, but I enjoyed reading your review. I’m still not crazy about the description, but maybe I’ll give it a go eventually.

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  8. I can definitely see why you had issues with the writing style. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and I’ve read plenty of books that have found themselves lost or drowned by the beautiful writing. I’m one of those that loved the book and for me that was down to the characters more than anything. The complexity of the relationships and the different dynamics we get was definitely the highlight for me.

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    • I did enjoy the complexity of the relationships – or more accurately, I appreciated it, but I didn’t enjoy reading this book because most of the time the writing just threw me off, haha. It’s quite unfortunate, but there’s definitely something special about this book regardless. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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