I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson is a book about many things. It is a book about Art, and Love and Loss. It also a book about a boy that speaks to horses, and has an entire art gallery inside of his head, a boy that wants and feels so fiercely he holds the whole sky inside his chest. It’s about a girl who gives up the Trees and the Stars and the Oceans for a portrait. A girl who sees ghosts and fervently believes that if a guy gives a girl an orange, her love for him will multiply.
I read this book cover to cover in one day, and then I did it again the next. It alternates points of view from Jude at age 16, an insanely superstitious girl, whose vibrancy and otherness, so apparent in the earlier sections of the book, have been snuffed out by the world and it’s callousness, when we read from her point of view further along the timeline of the story. To her twin; Noah at ages 13-14, who is an artist and a revolutionary and the biggest dork to ever live (see: literally falls in love with the boy next door).
This book was amazing for many reasons. The way the relationships and dynamics between all the characters are shown to the reader never ceases to blow my mind. Nelson’s portrayal of family and all that that entails is painful in its accuracy. In fact, family is one of the main themes in this book, something which is often pushed aside in YA in favour of romance, or the quest to find oneself. I do believe that writing familial relationships, and getting them right is one of the hardest things to achieve. There is of course, the unparalleled-twin-bond between Noah and Jude, that is tested nearly to breaking point and, for a few gut wrenching chapters, beyond that. There is the complex relationship between the twins (as separate entities and as one whole unit) and their parents. There is a constant debate over which twin is their mother’s favourite child, for example. There is also the slow erosion of their parent’s marriage, and Jude’s wonder at her art teacher Guillermo Garcia and everything she wants to learn from him. There is Noah’s friend Heather who softly asks something from him that he is unable to give. There is Oscar and Jude, Noah and Brian, NoahandJude, Noah and Oscar, Jude and Brian-
(and a few other meetings/encounters I will not divulge just yet…)
Most YA novels rely on common tropes like ‘instalove’ and a predetermined soulmate bond to help skirt around the aspect of love that takes time: the falling into it part. I do admit that neither of the romances are exactly slowburn, but this is a standalone novel which does, to a certain degree, eliminate the author’s ability to take their time in building the romance. That being said, I do think that both the relationships that do develop, while being very inevitable, are both wonderfully crafted.
I’ll Give You The Sun is the kind of book you don’t realise you need until you finish it, bleary eyed at 3am, smiling past the tears left over from mere chapters before, and feeling like the world makes a little bit more sense than it did before.
At one point Noah says: “A painting is both exactly the same and entirely different every single time you look at it.” That is how I felt after reading this book.
The story of Noah and Jude will blow you away, and fill you with light, plus it’s the perfect summer read.
rating: ★★★★★ (5 starred review)
(quick warning for: dubious/non-consent, death, implied suicidal-ness and alcoholism/drunkenness).