I’ll Give You The Sun is a breath-taking novel for young adults from the highly acclaimed writer Jandy Nelson. Hailed as ‘the next John Green’, it quickly becomes apparent why that's the case. Her characters have that same jump-right-off-the-page-and-into-your-heart thing going on. We become wrapped in them as we discover the truths of their minds and hearts.
A hot-pot of love, betrayal, sex and secrets; this book is on fire. It tells the story of Noah and Jude, two couldn’t-be-closer twins who find their world turned upside down. The book jumps between different stages of the twin’s lives; Noah’s narrative chapters are when they’re 13 years old, Jude’s when they’re 16, with each chapter throwing a little more light on their fragile relationship. This dance between past and present keeps their story fresh and alive to the reader – just as I can’t take the tension anymore, I frantically turn the page only to be released, like a pebble in water, softly descending into yet another piece of the puzzle – from another point of view and from a different time. All the while loving them and hating them and wondering how it could all have gone so wrong.
Noah practically explodes off the page in the opening chapter; the tornado of his feelings swallows you up. His shame, humility, rage and arousal are absolutely scalding. It’s this immediacy, this urgency that these characters exude, that keeps us running through the pages at a rate of knots. The seething hate that boils between them is so bitter at points you can taste it. Jude’s pain at her mothers’ preference for her brother is deep and settles in the pit of your stomach. The electricity that bounces between Noah and Brian, the new boy who lives next door, fizzes and bubbles under your skin. It takes Jude longer than Noah to pull us into her world; perfectly reflecting her more brooding character and the emotional barrier she has put up against the world. A barrier that is slowly removed by Jude's blossoming friendship with her new teacher and his beautiful, mysterious protégé.
Eloquent descriptions fill the book, creating vivid images that immerse us deeper and deeper into the story.
“Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you've been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”
“He floated into the air high above the sleeping forest, his green hat spinning a few feet above his head. In his hand was the open suitcase and out of it spilled a whole sky of stars.”
For me, these characters are more visceral, more believable, and more human than in anything else I’ve read. There is so much going on in this book it fills you up and makes you breathless. Noah’s character spoke to me in particular; my only gripe with this wonderful book is that I would have loved to have it finish from his point of view. That said, I love it, and I urge you to read it. This is one of those books that if you let it; will change how you see yourself and those around you.
I leave you with a quote from this Jackson Browne song which kept playing in my head whilst I was reading. Perhaps Jandy had it in her mind when she wrote the book.
I'm gonna find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we'll fill in the missing colors
In each other's paint-by-number dreams
And then we'll put our dark glasses on
And we'll make love until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We'll get up and do it again
- The Pretender