A Staff Pick by Meli Ewing
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (Speak, 2014)
Available New in Paperback at Tsunami
Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun is the winner of the 2015 Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, a 2015 Stonewall Honor Book, and a Best Book of the Year from the New York Times, Time Magazine, NPR, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and myriad other publications and public libraries around the country.
I’ll Give You the Sun is the story of Jude and her twin brother Noah, but really it’s two stories. Noah draws unceasingly, and he’s falling in love with the boy next door. Jude’s a rebel, a daredevil, an aspiring sculptor. Noah and Jude used to be inseparable. Their two minds shared one single paracosm, one single fantastic vivid imaginary world, of which they were the rulers, mapped neatly, phenomenally over the top of this one. Now they still live across the hall from each other, but tragedy has ripped them apart. The story they each tell is one about trying to put themselves and each other and their family back together.
What makes this book unique is its structure. The chapters alternate back and forth between Noah’s point of view and Jude’s—but Noah’s point of view is two years back into the past. You jump forward and back and forward and back. Sometimes what Noah doesn’t yet know makes you gasp and want to shield him from what is coming. But in the present, or from Noah’s point of view, the future, Jude only has half the story to tell herself. This separation in time, irrevocable in the space of the narrative, serves to piercingly mirror the twins’ emotional distance.
The language in I’ll Give You the Sun teems with simple, vivid, rhythmic authenticity. Nelson captures with startlingly exaggerative prose the feeling of being young and feeling like you’re alive for the first time, like you’re maybe the first person who has ever really been alive. The book is full of really stellar sentences. One that stopped me in my tracks and made me laugh out loud with joy is: “When we settle back into our selves, everything feels different, like if I turned on the light we’d be bears.”
This book is about family, forgiveness, love, and the healing power of making art. I recommend it for everyone. Something novelist Nick Hornby said comes to mind: “I see now that dismissing YA books because you’re not a young adult is a little bit like refusing to watch thrillers on the grounds that you’re not a policeman or a dangerous criminal, and as a consequence, I’ve discovered a previously ignored room at the back of the bookstore that’s filled with masterpieces I’ve never heard of.” I’ll Give You the Sun is a beautiful book that I recommend for young adults and what I think of as “real” adults alike.