I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
371 pages, 2014, Dial Books
At thirteen, twins Jude and Noah Sweetwine are completely entangled in each other’s lives. They are very different people. Jude is a daredevil who loves surfing and cliff diving. She is a social butterfly, outgoing, pretty and popular, with a great eye for designing unique pieces of clothing.
Noah is the quieter twin, living inside of his own head and between the pages of his sketchbook. He is sensitive, isolated and bullied, with no close friends and a quickly developing but seemingly unrequited crush. He dreams of attending CSA, the local fine arts high school, where he believes he will be able to be himself.
Despite their differences, the twins are so close. Jude is Noah’s staunchest defender, and Noah understands Jude better than anyone else in the world. Together, they navigate the uncertainties of adolescence and their parents’ mutual unhappiness.
At sixteen, the twins’ roles have flipped, and they aren’t even on speaking terms. Secrets and tragedy have driven a seemingly insurmountable wedge between them at a time when they need one another more than ever.
Jude is struggling with her sculpture classes at CSA, haunted by the ghosts of her mother and grandmother. She hides her looks with baggy clothes and an aggressive “leave me alone” attitude, moving silently and miserably through her days.
Noah, who was not accepted by CSA, has stopped drawing and learned to embrace Jude’s daredevil sensibilities. He has reinvented himself and found a niche at the public high school, but he isn’t really happy with the person he has become. He knows he is not being true to himself.
When Jude meets reclusive sculptor Guillermo Garcia and his heartbreakingly handsome, devastatingly damaged model, Oscar, her perspective shifts. She begins to see the events of the last three years through a new lens.
Meanwhile Noah, haunted by his mother’s death, is putting together pieces of the day she died and coming to a conclusion that puts him directly on a collision course with Jude and her newfound friends.
I’ll Give You the Sun is without a doubt one the most gripping, beautifully written books I have read in a long time. The story is suspenseful, with the twins’ secrets revealed in pieces, stringing readers along to the final page. But the suspense isn’t what makes this book so great.
The twins’ artistic natures are reflected in every word of the text. In some of the most gorgeous passages, author Jandy Nelson uses artistic imagery to express Noah’s innermost thoughts, and the effect is stunning!
Hands-down, I’ll Give You the Sun is the best book I’ve read so far this year. It is truly an example of the amazing quality and diversity of writing in the young adult genre. As much as I wanted to know how the story ended, I didn’t want the story to end. I was completely caught in Nelson’s spell, an oh-so-willing fly trapped in the web of her story.
Heather Holley-Hall is Alamance County Public Libraries’ Associate Director of Operations. She may be reached at 336-570-6730 or firstname.lastname@example.org