Published by Penguin on 9/16/14
Genres: Death & Dying, Family, LGBTQ+, Love & Romance, Siblings, Social Issues, Young Adult
My content rating: Mature YA (Some sexual content)
A brilliant, luminous story of first love, family, loss, and betrayal for fans of John Green, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.
This book is incredibly hard to review because it’s so hard to even describe. The story is told in alternating POV’s. We get Noah’s POV, describing what happens when the twins are 13 years old and starts out when they are still very close. Jude’s POV jumps to when the twins are 16, and we see that a huge rift has formed between them. As the story unfolds, we slowly start to see how this happened – how both small moments and huge events chipped away at their relationship until the gulf between them feels impossible to traverse and they can’t find each other at all anymore.
I don’t want to go into the specific plot much because it’s best if you discover it on your own. Instead, I’ll just jump straight into my review.
What I LOVED:
- Artistic, beautiful writing. I absolutely ADORED Noah’s voice – the way he saw his whole world as art. I’m not at all artistic, but Nelson made me feel like I could be an artist with her descriptions and depictions of life through the lens of artistic expression. I saw the world through Noah’s eyes, and though it was often strange, I understood him on a level that I don’t often understand characters in books. I felt Noah. Here is just one example of a quote – this is Noah describing his artwork depicting Brian, the boy he’s in love with (who collects meteor rocks in a suitcase):
“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.”
Or him describing his mom and how well she knows him :
“She’s a people-mechanic and always knows when I’m malfunctioning.”
“It occurs to me that Jude does this too, changes who she is depending on who she’s with. They’re like toads changing their skin color. How come I’m always just me?”
You see, Noah just describes everything in this artistically beautiful way, and I loved seeing the world through his eyes. Jude’s POV is often amazingly profound as well. Honestly, I could spend hours just sitting here and quoting the whole book. Instead, you should just read it.
- Romance written with depth. Even though both Jude and Noah start to fall for their respective love interests rather quickly, neither relationship feels like insta-love because there is so much depth to their interactions. I found this to be especially true with Noah and Brian. Every moment that Noah spends with Brian is meaningful, partially because Noah is just starting to understand his feelings and the fact that he’s gay. Every interaction is profound for Noah, and that gave those moments weight for me, as a reader, as well. I felt these moments deeply, just like Noah did. The same could be said for Jude and Oscar.
- Strained relationships. Sometimes Noah and Jude’s relationship was hard for me to understand. They went from being incredibly close to purposely hurting each other in such a short time period – I had a little bit of trouble understanding how jealousy pulled them apart so completely and made them. This wasn’t exactly a negative (which is why I list it as a neutral) because that was kind of the point of the book – how relationships with those we love can be messy and hurtful and painful, but if we confront these feelings and repair those relationships, we can rise above the pain and come out a better, more complete person. In that way, it was beautiful. But sometimes the road to get there was hard for me because I didn’t like the choices that Jude and Noah were making and I didn’t always completely understand them. Of course, in real life, we make decisions all the time that even we, ourselves, don’t completely understand! It also took me a little longer to connect to Jude than to Noah (partially because I was having trouble liking her at first), but I couldn’t bring myself to take off any more than a half star because the beauty of the book outshines these issues (at least it did for me).
What more can I say about this book? Honestly, I could probably go on and on, but I’ll stop there. I’ll Give You the Sun reflects the beauty of artistic expression and the joy, pain and complexity of love in all its forms. It describes the myriad of ways that our relationships can break us down when we let them fester, and how love and loss can affect us in profound ways. But it also demonstrates how learning to rebuild those relationships can re-make us – turn us into better versions of ourselves. In short, you need to read it. I give this book 4.5/5 stars.
About the Author
Jandy Nelson received a BA from Cornell, an MFA from Brown in poetry, and another MFA from Vermont College in writing for children and young adults. A literary agent for many years, she is also a published poet. The Sky Is Everywhere was her first novel. Jandy lives in San Francisco.