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“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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“Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater Review

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

I don’t think it’s a secret that I’ve pretty much hated the first two books in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle series – I’m sure my review of book two, The Dream Thieves, makes my feelings pretty clear. I’ve also made it clear that, due to my loathing of them, but also my inability to leave a series unfinished, I wouldn’t be buying the third book until it was either on offer or very cheap. Yet, for whatever reason, when I was in Waterstone’s the other day, I decided to buy it. At £7.99. Full price! Why?! I blame it on the Christmas Shopping High; I just had to buy things, even if I didn’t particularly want them, such as this book. But I bought it – and I read it in a day and a half. It took me forever to get through the first two books because every time I put them down (which was often), I just didn’t want to pick them back up again. However, whenever I had to put down Blue Lily, Lily Blue, it was grudgingly and because I had to start work, never because I wanted to. And I always wanted to pick it up again. It’s safe to say that Blue Lily… has been the best book in the series so far.

Now, you may be thinking “Well, that’s not really saying much considering your thoughts on the previous books, is it?”, and that’s fair enough – I asked myself the same thing. And although I really didn’t like the first two, Blue Lily… has just about redeemed the whole series – that’s how good it was. For once, I don’t think that I have a bad thing to say about any of the characters; instead I actually found them almost likeable. Not only that, but I even felt that Blue was, at times, quite a relatable characters – especially when she was talking about being back at school. Perhaps I interpreted this as being more cynical than it was intended, but this passage here seems to really accurately describe how I was feeling at school last year, particularly towards the end:

“This was not Blue’s real life.

As she leaned against the wall outside the guidance counsellor’s office, she wondered when she would start to think of school as an important thing again. After an extraordinary summer full of chasing kings and disappearing mothers, it was hard to really, truly picture herself going to class every day. What would any of this matter in two years? Nobody here would remember her, or vice versa.”

Well, it’s accurate apart from the chasing kings/disappearing mothers, but the realisation that nobody will remember her really hit home with me, probably as I finished school back in March and have only seen about half a dozen of my classmates since then. And saying that school “felt like more of a dream than Cabeswater” is also very much how I felt at school (again, just without Cabeswater!), and reading this section of the book definitely made Blue seem a lot more real to me. And in a book which is constantly questioning dreams and reality, that’s certainly something.

I think this book was supposed to be more “Adam’s book” , but I found that it’s more equally distributed between them all; it didn’t focus on Adam as much as The Dream Thieves did on Ronan, which I believe is why I enjoyed this a lot more. It’s not so much that I really hate Adam, I’m just indifferent to him. It doesn’t matter much to me if he’s there or not, so this book could have been a huge disappointment to me if he had been more focal – that said, I did begin to kind of like him in this one. And I’m pretty confident that the reason for that is… Ronan. Blue Lily… has made me ship them so much (they’re more canon to me than Gansey and Blue), and I just really want them to get together or something – they just seem to work. There’s something about the pair of them that I love and I hope it’s developed in the next book. Speaking of romance and development, I much preferred Blue and Gansey’s relationship in this one than I have in the previous books. It didn’t seem quite as in your face as it has, and at times I actually thought they were quite sweet – so if we can hold onto that in the next one, I’ll be one happy person!

There seemed to be a lot more going on in this book, including a few moments which stunned me and left me wishing events had turned out differently (if you’ve read this, I’m sure you’ll know what in particular I’m referring to). There were slightly darker moments, there were sad moments, and there were most definitely humorous moments – in particular when Jesse Dittley was around! One of the quotes from Blue is going onto my bookcase of quotes, as it made me laugh: I mean, how often are you going to read “Are you trying to say I’m a better sort of ant?”?! It reminded me of myself; that’s probably the kind of thing I would say! Of course, it wasn’t just the funny quotes that I liked, it’s the serious ones too – the most notable one to me surprisingly comes from Adam, although it’s really only the last line I like, I’ll give the whole paragraph to provide a little more context:

“Maybe it was good that the world forgot every lesson, every good and bad memory, every triumph and failure, all of it dying with each generation. Perhaps this cultural amnesia spared them all. Perhaps if they remembered everything, hope would die instead.”

I find that last line to be beautiful, but almost haunting too. There’s something about it which really resonates and makes me think. I’m glad that the book isn’t all about throwing in little humorous remarks, or all about the sweet moments – that statement from Adam really rings true.

To round it all up, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m really glad that I’ve read it – and that’s not something I thought I’d say about any of these books! Even though I do still find Stiefvater’s writing a little pretentious at times, it wasn’t as obviously so as it has been in her other books, which I appreciated. I’m finding myself looking forward to the next book, but I think the reason I enjoyed Blue Lily, Lily Blue is because I didn’t have high expectations for it – perhaps I should keep it that way for the next one!

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