Book review: I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

Nelson Give You the SunNelson, Jandy. I’ll Give You the Sun. Dial. 2014. $17.99. 384p. HC. 9780803734968.

At thirteen, Noah is perfecting his art with the hope for acceptance into a special art high school and at the same time experiencing his first love with a boy in town for just the summer. His twin sister, Jude, is spending her summer being reckless and flirtatious. As the two drift apart, so do their parents, and everyone in the family keeps secrets.

Three years later, a family tragedy completely alters all of them. Noah attends regular high school, plays sports, and hangs out with his athletic friends including his “girlfriend.” He has quit his art studies, and Jude is the one attending art school. Wearing baggy clothing and barely speaking, she has been on a boy boycott, but the young English man who frequents her art mentor’s house may change her mind. The only way the twins can move forward and accept themselves is if they can find their way back to each other in the present through being open about the past.

The narrative alternates between Noah’s perspective at thirteen and Jude’s perspective at sixteen while overlapping secondary characters between the two time periods help the cohesion of the plot. The writing in this story is stunning, especially the sections from Noah’s perspective in which the descriptions match his artistic mind. While this story includes romance, the novel focuses on the twins’ dealing with grief, anger, confusion, and loneliness. They learn how to be true to themselves and how to be open and vulnerable to those they can trust.

Alternating perspectives sometimes reaching almost 100 pages before a change requires patience in a reader, but Nelson has created effective pacing. I’ll Give You the Sun works best with teenagers who enjoy character-driven stories with emotional turmoil. This novel will live up to the high expectations of fans of Nelson’s first novel, The Sky is Everywhere, as well as garner new fans.

Jenna Goodall, Youth Services Librarian
Deerfield (IL) Public Library

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