“I’ll Give You The Sun” by Jandy Nelson review

I'll Give you The Sun

“Winner of a Stonewall Book Award Honor” declares the back of this book – and that was me sold. I just can’t seem to get enough of LGBT+ related books, if my recent Barnes & Noble and Amazon book–buying sprees are anything to go by.

I’ll Give You The Sun is told from the perspectives of Jude and her twin brother, Noah, with Noah’s story being told when they were 13, and Jude’s story at age 16. The whole book was beautifully written, but Noah’s chapters are just phenomenal. It’s made clear straight away how artistic he is, and his story is told with an abundance of imagery. You don’t see other characters and events in the same way “normal” people might; instead you read about how Noah’s dad speaks to him “like I’m some kind of broken umbrella”, or his mind painting of one of the boys chasing after him at the start of the book:

“His coconut suntan lotion’s filling my nose, my whole head – the strong smell of the ocean too, like he’s carrying it on his back… Zephyr dragging the tide along like a blanket behind him… That would be good, that would be it (PORTRAIT: The Boy Who Walked Off with the Sea) – but not now, Noah, so not the time to mind–paint this cretin.”

The mind–paintings are one of my favourite things about Noah’s chapters, as some of the titles are just fantastic and you can really envision these works of art. Even if you only get the title of a piece, with no real description of the colours, or how it looks, I could still imagine them so clearly in my mind – something I often struggle to do, as I have all the artistic talent of a stick.

Jude’s chapters, on the other hand, are different. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still very well written, there just seemed to be something lacking – especially after hearing from Noah, which I think spoiled me a little with its beauty! However, a huge event happened in the time between them being 13 and 16, which has impacted them as individuals – and, I feel, has greatly affected Jude in particular. Given the circumstances, Jude’s character is most definitely written appropriately and she comes across as a very real character. Whilst I disagree with a lot of her actions, I do empathise with her and for the most part I love her character. Although she is written very differently from Noah, many of her lines and descriptions are just as wonderful.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this book won a Stonewall award, and I really like finding new LGBT+ novels. Well, I want to be clear: this is not a purely romantic novel. The main relationship is that of the twins, which is shown brilliantly through their individual monologues. But Noah is also following in love with the boy next door, and it’s not hard to see why: he’s charismatic, enthusiastic, and he treats Noah like a real person – something he never really got from others. Everything the two boys have to face constantly throws me into turmoil, but of course there are good points in their relationship too. One thing I love about it is that although Noah starts developing this crush, the progression of their friendship isn’t just abandoned to focus on romance.

Although the relationship between Noah and Jude, and Noah and the boy next door, are the main focuses of the novel, there are many others covered throughout too: the twins’ relationship with their parents; Jude’s relationship with a mysterious boy, the slightly crazy Guillermo Garcia, and with herself; and of course, Noah’s relationship with his art. The book is far more complex than I had first expected (I had assumed from the cover it would be some kind of cutesy, plot–deprived thing), and dotted with far more sudden twists – some shocking, others less so – than I had imagined.

The description on the inside cover claims “This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award–wining author of ‘The Sky is Everywhere’ will leave you breathless and teary and laughing – often all at once” – but really, how many books try to say this? Yet I’ll Give You the Sun pulls it off. For the majority of the time, I was in tears – and not the kind where you’re only crying a little due to some mild sadness; no, I was pretty much all–out sobbing. Then I was suddenly laughing through my slowly clearing tears, and two pages later, something was said that had me crying all over again! I honestly can’t think of any other book which has made me anywhere near as upset.

My only complaint is that the ending wasn’t quite as resolved as I would have liked – although I suppose I can (grudgingly) understand why. As much as I would have appreciated a little continuation with some of the relationships, it would have dragged the story out unnecessarily and possibly ruined it somewhat.

I promise I’ll stop banging on about how wonderfully written it was in a minute, but I’d like to finish by saying that I really loved that the twins’ chapters were done interchangeably so the story was pieced together bit by bit, instead of learning some things all at once, and having nothing really be a surprise anymore.

All in all, this was an absolutely fantastic book, and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s well worth a read.

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