I’ll Give You the Sun
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Image via: Amazon
I had high hopes for I’ll Give You the Sun. In part, it’s because I received the book (a delicious hardcover with a spectacular cover design—I mean seriously, just look at it) as a Christmas present, courtesy of my husband. And he has a pretty impeccable track record for gifting me with Young Adult novels written by authors previously unknown to me. (Thank you, Billy, for exposing me to the likes of Rainbow Rowell and Sabaa Tahir.)
So when I ripped the paper from I’ll Give You the Sun, I was relatively confident that I was in for a treat. It doesn’t hurt that the book is a Printz award winner and New York Times bestseller, among its other accolades. Back in 2010, author Jandy Nelson, a former literary agent, published The Sky Is Everywhere, another Young Adult novel that garnered its fair share of attention.
But considering that I’m saving The Sky is Everywhere for a rainy day (after which point I’ll probably cry because I won’t have another new Jandy Nelson brainchild waiting on my nightstand, at least for the foreseeable future), I’ll Give You the Sun is currently my favorite Young Adult novel. Like, ever.
And yes, I have read John Green’s greatest hits (I’ve been a loyal fan ever since I inhaled the excellence that is An Abundance of Katherines back in 2008. And yes, I remember when I read it. I even remember the high school class in which I claimed a back row seat and partially hid the book under my desk, unable to tear my eyes away). And Rainbow Rowell’s. And Laurie Halse Anderson’s. And the works of J.K. Rowling and Lois Lowry and Christopher Paolini and Jay Asher and Lauren Oliver and all of the other mindbogglingly talented kings and queens of YA fiction. It’s seriously that good.
For starters, we have one of my favorite things ever: teenage angst, with a side of that deliciously complex rivalry that you find with almost every pair of siblings—but in this case, it’s an amplified twin version. Coupled with a family tragedy and a sprinkling of the supernatural, and this one was a guaranteed winner in my book (pun very much intended).
But then Jandy Nelson had to take it a step further. In voicing the story from both Jude and Noah’s perspectives (you guessed it, they’re the twin protagonists) and temporarily disorienting the reader with the whole chronological storytelling thing (Noah’s stories occur before the family tragedy, Jude’s are after, but the story jumps between years and voices, building to a powerful climax), Jandy flexes her storytelling muscles and simultaneously offers a unique reading experience.
I was also impressed with the LGBT current that runs throughout the book. In today’s world, it’s a treat to read a book that carefully explores (read: is not cartoonish or unrealistic about) the complex challenge of discovering your sexuality—and especially, homosexuality—and determining how it fits into life as you know it.
The entire novel also offers some serious lessons in the artistic process. Seriously. Though I won’t pretend to be an art expert by any means, I feel like I now can recognize and appreciate art terminology (not to mention the overwhelming complexity of sculpting, if I weren’t totally intimidated by that in the first place) a little more than I did when I started the book.
In case you can’t tell, this book has me fangirling. Hard. I texted people when I finished it, begging them to visit their local library and snap it up. I volunteered to send my precious copy to my best friend, so she could read it and we could jointly analyze each of Jandy Nelson’s perfectly crafted, absolutely breathtaking sentences. It’s my greatest hope that I can share its excellence with the world, so that friends and random internet strangers alike can bask in its sunlight. Ms. Nelson, thank you. Your novel was a work of art, a gift I definitely didn’t deserve, but I’ll take it all the same.
Verdict: Lit (obviously)