Rummanah Aasi
 Jandy Nelson's critically acclaimed sophomore novel, I'll Give You the Sun, was the last book that I discussed with my student book club. It garnered a great discussion and it was overall enjoyable, but it didn't wow us.

Description: 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.

Review: Noah and Jude used to be inseparable twins until betrayal and tragedy ripped them apart. The book has a unique narrative structure in which Nelson tells her tale of grief and healing in separate story lines and time periods, Noah's point of view and thread takes place before the betrayal and Jude's point of view and thread takes three years after the betrayal. 
 Out of the two story lines, I absolutely loved Noah's the best. He is an immensely talented painter, who sees the world in paintings and vibrant colors. He wears his heart on his sleeve and like many of us as teens was frustrated by how our parents couldn't understand us or we somehow couldn't meet our parents expectation of us. The only person who he could honestly be himself around is his twin sister Jude. In his own thread, Noah discovers  an all consuming first love with a closeted baseball player named Brian, who moves in next door to Noah's coastal Northern California home. Their romance is sweet and confusing as both boys are navigating and coming to terms with their own sexuality.
  I felt Noah's sections were much easier and more interesting to read unlike Jude's. Unlike Noah's storyline, Jude is 16 in hers, observing a "boy boycott" since a tragic accident two years earlier. I found Jude a very hard person to like. She is abrasive and rebellious for the sake of rebelling. Her chapters are much more guarded as she keeps to herself and communicates only with the ghosts in her head. She bottles up guilt and disappointment until she no longer can and turns to an eccentric sculptor for mentoring and meets his protege, a dangerously charismatic British college student. 
  The novel's narrative structure allows for Noah and Jude to grow as individuals. Nelson does a great job in showing the complexities of familial love, both from a brother and sister aspect as well as a child and parent. While there are romantic love at work, it doesn't overshadow Noah's and Jude's own personal growth. I also loved the symbolism throughout the book, especially Noah's "invisible museum" in which he beautifully explained his inner thoughts and turmoil in portraits. Jude's 'bible' didn't have the same oomph but it worked well as her own private journal.
 My biggest issue with the book lies in the revelation of the big betrayal and how it was dealt in the epilogue. We spent pages trying to puzzle out what caused this huge rift between inseparable siblings only to find out how trite it is and I actually figured it out before the characters did, but that didn't matter. The big reveal is one of my hot points, which I find to be unforgivable (I'm trying to be vague on purpose so I don't spoil the book) and the characters acted as if "well, the past is the past so it's okay" and it seemed to say that it doesn't matter what mistakes you make as long as you are true to yourself, which I find to be a conflicting message. There is also another issue that nagged me throughout the book about whether or not Jude's first sexual experience was consensual or not and what did the author mean when she placed this huge lifetime event right before the tragedy. Overall, I thought I'll Give You the Sun was well written, but loses its power in my opinion when the ending was wrapped too neatly and tightly in a bow.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is language, crude humor, a small sex scene, as well as underage drinking and partying. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
5 Responses
  1. I have read some great reviews for this one, but after reading your review I think this one is not for me. I think the ending and the triteness would bother me too much. Thank you so much for your honest review.

  2. Kindlemom Says:

    Glad you all enjoyed this even if it didn't wow any of you.
    Wonderful review!

  3. I'm still scared to read this because I loved her previous novel so much. I know, it's ridiculous, but I admire her so much and I don't want anything to ruin it. I actually like clean, well-rounded endings, so I'm curious to see how I'll feel about this one. Either way, I already own a copy. It's time for me to read it already.

  4. Yea, endings can do that. :( Still, this one does sound pretty good and I since I don't read many contemporaries I might have to give this one a try. I'm wondering if I'll see it differently since I don't read too many.

  5. Aylee Says:

    Huh, well I've yet to read this one so I can't comment as to how I found the ending, but reading your commentary here... I think I know what you're getting at and I agree with you. I still definitely want to read this one, and the author's other book too!

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