Today I’m going to be talking about Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun.
You have to read this book.
It’s beautifully-written, heartbreaking, hopeful, and just so, so lovely.
A summary from Goodreads:
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.
This story is told in alternating chapters, from the point of view of twins–Noah, a gay, shy, artistic 13-year-old, and Jude, who at 16 has been deeply affected by a tragedy that’s ripped apart their lives. It’s the kind of book that once you finish a chapter, you’re upset because you’re leaving that person’s story–but then the next chapter is so amazing, you’re upset when you reach the end of that. This is the kind of book you never want to put down, and you never want to end.
The first page:
This is how it all begins.
With Zephyr and Fry–reigning neighborhood sociopaths–torpedoing after me and the whole forest floor shaking under my feet as I blast through air, trees, this white-hot panic.
“You’re going over, you pussy!” Fry shouts.
Then Zephyr’s on me, has one, both of my arms behind my back, and Fry’s grabbed my sketchpad. I lunge for it but I’m armless, helpless. I try to wriggle out of Zephyr’s grasp. Can’t. Try to blink them into moths. No. They’re still themselves: fifteen-foot-tall, tenth-grade asshats who toss living, breathing thirteen-year-old people like me over cliffs for kicks.
Nelson starts right in with the beautiful language and we’re immediately on Noah’s side. I was hooked. I love Noah as a narrator, and found it kind of amazing how I, a grown-up heterosexual female, related so hard to a thirteen-year-old closeted homosexual boy. But how can you not love him?
Favorite Noah quotes:
I feel way cool, like I’m wearing sunglasses, even though I’m not.
I look at the Chagall print on the wall in front of me and try to dive into the swirly dream of it. Real life blows.
What if he realizes I’m me? A cold wind blows through me like I’m in an empty room and I suddenly know everything’s going to be terrible and I’m doomed; not only me but the whole gloomy grubby gray world too.
Reality is crushing. The world is a wrong-sized shoe. How can anyone stand it?
“I love you,” I say, only it comes out, “Hey.”
“So damn much,” he says back, only it comes out, “Dude.”
It’s amazing how what goes on in the head stays in the head.
And then Jude. Like I said, I was initially disappointed with the interruption of Noah’s story, especially with the way 13-year-old Jude is portrayed up front–beautiful, confident, etc. I relate way more to the outcasts (don’t we all?) But by sixteen, that’s what Jude has become:
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.
What is bad for the heart is good for art. The terrible irony of our lives as artists.
Because to me, life feels more like realizing you’re on the wrong train barreling off in the wrong direction and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“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.
Just do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s filled with beautiful prose, heartbreakingly real characters, really fascinating musings on art and life and love. I will now read anything Jandy Nelson ever writes, no questions asked–this book is that good. 9/10.