I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Published in 2015 by Walker Books
My copy: Library
Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.
This young adult novel is narrated alternately by twins Jude and Noah – in Noah’s strand the twins are 13/14 and in Jude’s they are 16 – and things have changed dramatically for the twins in the intervening years. The first thing you notice about this novel is the actual design of the book. Both the narrators are budding artists, and the pages have scribbles and wiggles on them – which I must admit I stopped noticing at all after a few pages (which is good as it meant it wasn’t distracting … but also makes you wonder what the point is!).
The second thing you realise is that the novel is pretty quirky. Both the twins are unusual; people sometimes become paintings in Noah’s mind, and he visualises everything in a unique way, while Jude is highly superstitious and does all sorts of crazy things to ward off bad luck, unwanted attention and so on. At first, I found this quirkiness hard to get used to and distracting in some ways, but as with the scribbly bits, I soon got used to it.
What I did like was that both the narrators have such distinct voices, and I think this worked really well, although I did find myself much preferring Noah’s sections. He is a bit of a loner, but when he finally makes a friend in Brian, he really comes out of himself and the writing in these sections is lovely. I thought the way Nelson handles Noah’s sexuality was great as it wasn’t made a huge issue of – it was just a part of who he was, and I found this refreshing. Running alongside this, Jude also meets and starts to fall for someone, so there is a lot of romance weaved through the novel.
But there is much more going on in this book, and the way in which the twins are each treated differently by their parents has a very negative affect on their relationship, and this is really what the book is all about. There are numerous betrayals – sometimes maybe too many – and it is often sad the way their twins intentionally harm the other, even though they do have a close bond. And usually we can understand what has led them to do what they have done, even if we don’t agree with it.
I did go through some ups and downs with this novel. I did find it a bit hard to get into at first, and I definitely preferred Noah’s sections to begin with, but by halfway through the book I was really in love with it, and I enjoyed the quirkiness of the novel, the funny dialogue and I found the story gripping too. I also really liked the distinctive tones of voice of the two characters and the ways in which they were almost deliberately trying to destroy the other.
However by the end of the book I had dipped again a bit – mainly because there were just a few too many coincidences for me, and I don’t like it when everything is wrapped up a bit too neatly, as it is here.
But overall this really is a good read, and I would read more of Nelson’s novels. A good one for young adult fans who like books that are a bit edgier, and aren’t afraid of quirky narrators.