I’ll Give You the Sun

I'll give you the sun

I’ll Give You The Sun
Jandy Nelson
Dial Books
September 2014

I’ll Give You the Sun, the 2015 Printz Award and Stonewall Award winner, follows Noah and Jude, twins who cling to their childhood closeness despite growing apart as they become teens and face both personal and family tragedies.  The chapters are told from each twin’s point of view at two different times in their lives. In Noah’s chapters, which chronicle his being bullied, creating art, and falling in love with a boy while popular Jude hangs out at the beach with her girlfriends, the twins are 13. In Jude’s chapters, when the twins are 16, their lives have seemingly reversed; now Noah is a popular athlete dating one of Jude’s old friends while Jude, withdrawn and miserable, struggles through art school until she is taken in by a famous sculptor and his mysterious and dreamy housemate. It is clear that something has shaken up Noah and Jude’s word in the time between their 13th and 16th years, and piece by piece, secret by secret, of which there are many, the truth comes to light.

I had heard mixed reviews from friends about this book, which almost always happens when a book wins an award. I found some of Jandy Nelson’s devices a little gimmicky. Noah has parenthetical asides that name his thoughts and emotions as pieces of art – “(SELF-PORTRAIT: Boy Detonates Grenade of Awesome).” Jude’s equivalent is excerpts from a “bible” full of weird, clever, or insightful sayings and advice from her dead grandma, with whom she still talks – If a boy gives a girl an orange, her love for him will multiply. The book tackles big subjects – homosexuality, death, betrayal, rape, suicide – but without judgment and with so much hope. There’s also no denying Nelson’s ability to shape characters in a way that lets them, in the course of one book, start out one way, do a total 180, and then resolve into a believable conclusion that doesn’t wrap things up too nicely. In the end, I’ll Give You the Sun is worthy of the award and worthy of your reading time.

P.S. – The Guardian printed a great interview with Jandy Nelson last month about the book, her writing process, and the fact that I’ll Give You the Sun has been optioned for a movie. Check is out here.

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