Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Genre: YA (14+) - Contemporary
Genre: YA (14+) - Contemporary
♪ Jessie J - Sweet Talker ♪
Jandy Nelson's debut novel, The Sky is Everywhere, was one of my absolute favourite debut novels of 2010. Its strong depiction of the ailing effect of music and love in the midst of a grieving period in a young teen's life quickly landed the author a place on my list of authors I will follow no matter what. In that book she showed a unique sensitivity and delivered a beautifully-woven story that I could not forget.
Her sophomore title, I'll Give You the Sun, surpassed her debut by far. I cannot even begin to describe how invested I had become with the story and the characters; everything was so powerful, so emotional, so beautiful. Contemporary YA will always be my home genre and I think I'll Give You the Sun just confirms to me that Jandy Nelson can do no wrong.
[Note: I haven't been in the mood to write for a while so it's been >1 month since I read this book, so I'll write as much as I can.]
I'll Give You the Sun is a story about family. Jude and Noah are twins. Each have their own perspective, their own side that they share to the reader: Jude at 16 years, Noah in the past when they were 13 years of age. At the heart of everything is their mum, who favoured Noah's artistic talent while seemingly dismissing Jude when they were 13 years old and about to apply for the prestigious CSA (which Jude didn't want to go to because she wanted to be "normal"). At 16 they are separated, but their stories will intertwine, the truth will become uncovered and they will eventually start to love one another again.
I loved the use of dual perspectives--one from the past, one from the "present". Their individual voices were unique so you could easily differentiate the two. Jandy Nelson's talent lies in writing beautiful prose, lilting and rhythmic, that flows and moves the reader.
I was able to sympathise with both Jude and Noah, whose roles and personalities and lives seem to have swapped in those three years. Jude, who only wanted her mother's approval and to be "normal" and have a brother who will open up to her. Noah, whose passion and drive for art is destroyed when he isn't accepted to CSA. When the truth is unleashed, they--and we--will understand everything.
Jude is at odds at the CSA: she's one failed step from quitting the academy. She is convinced her mum's ghost is destroying all her sculptures, to punish her, to push her to give her brother back his rightful position at the academy. Her only hope is to use another medium, to use unbreakable stone, reach out to the stone-master and esteemed mentor, Guillermo Garcia... who turns out to be closer to her than ever imagined.
I loved the story behind Guillermo, and how he fits into their story. Not to mention his incredibly arrogant and flirtatious assistant, Oscar, with whom Jude is instantaneously drawn to. Almost enough to break her boy ban... I loved the romance and relationships that shift and develop and evolve. Oscar frustrated me, mostly by what he puts Jude through, but in the end he's trying to change. In the end I do think they're good for each other, but true to life there are gray areas of doubt.
I don't want to make a big deal about this, but it does need to be mentioned. There are themes of GBLT in this book. There's so much confusion, anger and frustration linked to Noah's story in relation to his sexual orientation. He becomes enamoured with his one and only friend, the new kid from up the block, Brian... which becomes complicated when Brian becomes popular, the star athlete, got a reputation to uphold, and a relationship with another guy will unravel all his plans. As a straight female I was still able to sympathise with Noah. I feel like the underlying themes of longing, regret and inability to love someone completely and how you want to are heart-renderingly universal--such that I was able to relate to his situation on some level.
In the end, this book just got me. It was just perfect for me. I love stories about art/music/performing arts. I love stories about family and love and heartbreak and revenge and secrets. It does get a little bit melodramatic near the end, but that never seemed to bother me too much. The ending is a little bit abrupt, I'll admit, and I definitely would love to know what happens after, but maybe that's just proof of how attached I became to all of the characters. I absolutely cannot wait for Nelson's next book. Without a doubt she will not disappoint.
First line: This is how it all begins.
"It's very hot and steamy to laugh out of control inside a wool hat, so after a time I lift it up and see him there, his face splotchy and eyes watering from truly losing it, and I'm filled with something I can only describe as recognition. Not because he looks familiar on the outside this time, but because he feels familiar on the inside.
Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you've been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall,the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to. (221)
And so many others. This book is filled with quote-worthy passages (that I managed not to save, which means I will have to re-read in the future! ;)).
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