I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Dial Books, 16 September 2014)
I went into this with high hopes. I'd loved Jandy Nelson's last book. I read it in early 2011 and spent the next few years Googling every so often to see if she had another book coming out yet. I was desperate to read more of her writing. Now, four years later, I finally get to read her second book. And wow, was the wait worth it.
I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN tells the story of Noah and Jude, twins who are inseparable at the age of thirteen and both artistic in their own ways. Noah is the quiet one. He draws constantly, dreams of going to art school, and falls in love with the boy next door. Jude wears tight dresses and lipstick and kisses boys at parties. Three years later, there's now a rift between Noah and Jude, and it's like they've swapped personalities. Noah doesn't make art anymore; he has lots of friends and hosts parties at their house. Jude wears baggy sweaters and avoids boys and barely even speaks. What can have happened to make them so different? How can they get back to each other and to their old selves again?
Interestingly, I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN alternates between the perspectives of 13-year-old Noah and 16-year-old Jude. The first chapter is from 13-year-old Noah's point of view, and I immediately fell in love with him, and it was kind of startling to be wrenched away from that in the next chapter, and so far away from it too. Three years away from 13-year-old Noah, when he's changed so drastically and we only get to see him from the outside, from his sister's point of view. I totally appreciate the effect of structuring the book like this, because the gulf that the three years have created between the two siblings is more marked this way, but I couldn't help but really want to look inside 16-year-old Noah's head too and see what's going on in there. It took me longer to warm to Jude, though I was completely in love with her too by the end.
Seriously, Noah's perspective. Whoa. He sees the world in such a unique and sharply defined way. It's overwhelming and it can seem a little over-the-top at first but I got used to it quickly and it was just amazing. It's like the world is just exploding through his eyes all the time, and there's so much light and colour and beauty, so much feeling and meaning in everything. The world is seen but it's also felt. Nelson's prose is just stunning and everything's so perfectly observed and captured in her writing.
This book really made me feel so much. It's very real in its portrayal of tragedy and grief and the sad, terrible things in life, but at the same time it's fairytale-like in its love stories. I loved Jude and Noah. I loved so many of the secondary characters as well. I also loved that the adults in this book were all so intriguing and seen in such a human light, and Jude and Noah's mother especially had such a rich and fascinating story. I adored all the romance too.
The book unravelled so powerfully and intensely, and it was brilliant how everything came together. But I did think the ending was a little neat. It's like, everything is suddenly sunshine and rainbows at the end after all the tragedy and the distance and the years of keeping secrets and hiding from themselves and from each other. Surely it would take a little longer to shed all that? But I don't even care that much, because I still loved it and it made me so happy.
I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN makes me incoherent with joy. It's that kind of book. It's a book about art and passion and being true to yourself. It's about family: the kind you're born with and the kind you find. It's about love and second chances and remaking the world. And it might just remake your world if you read it.