Thursday, January 8, 2015

I'll Give You the Sun

I'll Give You the Sun
Jandy Nelson
Dial, 2014  371 pgs.
Grades 9-Up

Alternating points of view and time periods tell the stories of twins Jude and Noah.  We experience with them the pivotal summer of their thirteenth year, as they both enter into the arena of romance, prepare for high school, and suffer the break up of their parents, and, eventually, the death of their mother.  What exactly happened during this time period is slowly revealed interspersed with chapters in the present, three years later, while the now sixteen-year-olds are still reeling from the fall-out.  Noah and Jude were both as close as fraternal twins could get.  Both artistic and vying for their mother's attention, they planned on applying to one of the best art high school in the country, conveniently located in northern California region.  A series of events, misunderstandings, and jealousy breaks the twins apart and leads them to a war, which keeps escalating, resulting in a complete deterioration of their relationship.   Jude attends the art school, following the wacky rituals left behind by her late grandmother and  hiding behind superstition.  Once thought to be the most promising artist, Noah goes to the public high school and tries to blend in with the "regular kids", keeping his homosexuality and super-charged creativity a secret.  By book's end we know the whole story of what really happened to the family during that important summer and both Noah and Jude do as well.  They come back together as one unit, stronger and better than before.

Wow!  What a great book!  Nelson captures the individual voices of her characters perfectly and presents an artistically written book, perfect for narrating two artists.  The book is so beautifully written and the language so rich that it feels like poetry.  Every word Nelson uses is intentional.  Though the book is carefully written, the non-linear plot remains amazing.  We are kept guessing throughout the book and pieces of the story are slowly revealed.  Some times the reader can guess where Nelson is leading us, other times its a surprise.  Other minor characters, such as the sculptor who mentors Jude, her British love interest, Noah's love interest and the father, are all developed and interesting.  I'll Give You the Sun allows the reader to see inside the mind of two different, yet talented, artists,  Noah, especially, is so brilliant, yet so quirky that he is a pleasure to read.  I feel like I now know these people and expect to see Noah and Jude's work in a museum in the future.  I'll Give You the Sun is not for the average teenager.  Give it to thoughtful, creative kids, either boys or girls.  Adults will like it too.  I wasn't a big fan of the ending, which sewed a lot of complicated situations up into a nice neat package.  Books for teenagers, regardless of how dysfunctional the story is, must end on a hopeful note.  Nelson completes every plot thread in the happiest possible manner, which to me, cheapens what was a very complex and mature story.  Ending aside, this was, hands down, the best book I read for teenagers this year.  Interesting enough, even though I have many teenagers in my life, I can't see any of them "getting" this book.  I plan on passing it to a college art student, who I think will totally get it and love it.  She will appreciate the happy ending.  Life has too many disappointments we can't control.  Its nice to have our fiction all work out the way we think it should.

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