I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Stars: ★★★★★ (4.5/5)
I rounded up the stars because I loved this book and there’s only really one thing that knocked it down to a 4.5 and I will talk about that a bit later. To start: I found everything about this book to be amazing; the writing, the plot(s), the points of view, the characters. I was so in love with all of it. And I know that the reasons I love this book, are also reasons why some people do not. I know this book is not for everyone. Some people find the metaphors and descriptions absurd, and the characters ridiculous. And that’s okay since everyone reads a book differently.
Writing: I loved Nelson’s writing; I thought it was thought provoking and refreshing to read such vivid and new descriptions. And I found a lot of it to be hilarious. I thought she did a really good job of making both the characters of Noah and Jude unique but also similar since they are twins. I loved the descriptions she provided, and how she showcased the emotions of each protagonist with these little quirks; for Noah it was titles of picture he would create in his mind, an example being (PORTRAIT: Jude Braiding Boy After Boy Into Her Hair), and for Jude these little “bible thumping” beliefs/superstitions she had, such as If a boy gives a girl an orange, her love for him will multiply. I thought these two additions really added to the characters’ voices and showed a deeper part of their persona. As well, while a lot of the metaphors and similes and descriptions did seem over the top at times, at lot of them were fresh and new and best of all – not clichés. There were strange descriptions at times, but it all added to the strangeness of the characters. Maybe after reading such dense material at university has allowed me to look deeper into these types of writing styles. Because trust me, Plato, Jeanette Winterson, and Miguel de Cervantes do not have simplistic and easy to read writing styles. They are like Nelson’s, but a lot more dense, descriptive, and convoluted. I’m also not trying to say this to sound like I’m a better reader or anything – I actually read these author’s works this past year and they have allowed me to appreciate the dense, strange, and convoluted. Overall, I really enjoyed Nelson’s writing. I’ll Give You the Sun is definitely on my favourite stand alone shelf. The one negative thing I have to say is that I found the chapters to be much too long. There were so many breaks that indicated the passing of time, I think Nelson would have been better to make it another chapter. There were even a few cases where the time that “passes” was literally a few minutes. I remember being like
“What the poop why isn’t this a new chapter? That would make so much more sense” and I’m sure I’m not alone on this one. I think these long passages would definitely be off putting to someone who already dislikes the writing style. The chapters feel like they go on forever, and I would begin to want to flip back to the other sibling’s POV. It was a bit maddening but I didn’t find it hindered my reading experience so much to give it lower than a 4.5/5 stars.
Plot: I found the plot to be quite good, although the supposed twists and surprises were not as surprising as Nelson expected them to be I think. The revealing of the information that (SPOILER) Jude & Noah’s mom died in the first quarter of the book had me dying to know how it happened. I loved the fact that there were two plots within the main plot and I will make a lovely diagram to show this coolness. (Don’t mind my messy handwriting or the fact that yes, I just made this for this review)
Anyways, I also loved how their lives and stories practically switched at age 14 due to a certain series of events. The only part I found unnecessary was Jude’s relationship with Oscar. It seemed to be 1) redundant and 2) slightly creepy, as she was only 16 and he was 19. I know age doesn’t matter once you’re past like 20, but when older guys are interested in younger girls it makes me very skeptical and wary. I loved Noah and Brian’s relationship though. I loved seeing a younger LGBTQA+ character represented, as so many “adults”
(homophobes) say that “children are too young to know what they want” or that it’s “just a phase” and that drives me right bonkers. I can’t speak for the LGBTQA+ community, as I am only an ally, but I have enough experience in the world to know that younger LBGTQA+ teens know the truth about themselves.
Characters: I have to say I fell in love with the characters. My favourite minor character had to be Guillermo Garcia: the kind of man who walks into a room and all the walls fall down. (I also love this description I think it’s so new and is it weird I totally understand what it means?) His character was so well done and so deep, I loved it. He also was such an artist that I loved that too, as I’m kind of an artist on the side of being a reader. I thought his rage, love, and understanding were so human, I could really picture him as a live person. I didn’t like Oscar as much, because not all English people talk like that (I have relatives in England who would laugh at such a thing) and he just seemed like the bad boy with tragic past trope all over again. Also appeared to be a huge player, which is not something I am fond of. I also really loved the Grandma, even though she was a ghost and pretty minor. I found her lines to be very laughable and mood-lightening.But onto the main protagonists
Noah: I really liked Noah’s character. His funny descriptions, obsession with art and with Brian, plus all of his funny like quirks really made me like him. I especially liked his descriptions of his father for some reason, I always found them to be puzzling yet intriguing. Noah did make some unforgivable mistakes (SPOILER: such as outing Brian, lying to his father, etc.) but as his character matured, which we saw mostly through Jude’s POV, it showed that he did develop as a character by learning which secrets to keep and showing that his heart/feelings are his flaw. As well, he acted exactly as I thought a 13 year old boy would act at times: pretty recklessly yet also silly (mostly seen in his descriptions and a few times when he was by himself). Overall I enjoyed watching his character grow, and I really did care about him (I also shipped him and Brian together so hard).
Jude: I enjoyed the character Nelson wrote for Jude. I know some readers think she is too cruel and mean when she is seen from Noah’s 13 year old perspective, but I think Nelson portrayed a 13 year old girl perfectly. I think sometimes older readers, especially adults, forget how ruthless teenage girls can be. I know that at 13 I wasn’t the nicest person in the world. I thought I knew everything, and acted a lot older than I actually was. So I don’t blame Jude for her behaviour at that age. It’s part of becoming a teenager, and every girl goes through it I think. I also really liked how by the end of the book, she embraced being that girl, because being that girl isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At only 16, she still had so many opportunities to recreate herself and find out who she really is. I also thought she had some amazing character growth, of learning to follow her heart and do what she knows is right, as well as embrace change.
Overall, I really loved this book, and I hope you will too. I know it isn’t for everyone, but if you have read it and liked it, please let me know! I would love to talk about it with you!