“When twins are separated, their spirits steal away to find the other”
In Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun, twins Noah and Jude fluctuate between their separate identities and NoahandJude, the singular soul which unites them even as their adolescence takes them in two different directions. I’ll Give You the Sun tells the story of Noah at age 13, as he experiences his first love with the boy next door, rife with painterly imagery and the many titles of Noah’s “mind paintings,” which he “paints” in between working on actual art. Art is Noah’s life; to Jude, art is something she enjoys, but not in the way her brother does. Which is why, when Noah starts getting all of the attention from their mother for it, tensions flare.
Also told by Jude at age 16, I’ll Give You the Sun captures Jude’s experience struggling to find her inner sculptor, and dealing with the guilt of hurting her brother several times over in the years between her story and Noah’s. And, of course, falling for a certain edgy English motorcycle boy…
Though it took some time to get used to Jandy Nelson’s painterly, metaphor-heavy language, I found I’ll Give You the Sun to be a spectacular read, as colorful and vibrant as the artwork it so often alluded to. Writing about art is a daunting task—ekphrasis, as it’s called, often leaves something to be desired—but this novel is delicious in its descriptions. I recommend this book to anyone who loves art, or who has ever picked up a pencil or paintbrush in an attempt to explain the way they feel.
I’ll Give You The Sun is as much about art, though, as it is about loss. In Jude’s narrative, we learn about a devastating family tragedy, and the family’s attempts to overcome their grief and personal regrets. As a result, this book can be difficult to read at points, brutally honest and painful in its intensity. That said, Jandy Nelson does an excellent job of painting the tragedy with nuance, blurring black and white into shades of gray.
For all the careful attention to certain difficult topics, though, I did take issue with some of the content of the novel; as a result, I think the reader of this book needs to approach it with a certain amount of maturity and perspective in place. I’ll Give You the Sun depicts the blossoming romance between a nineteen-year-old college student and a high school underclassman—and does startlingly little to acknowledge how these sorts of dynamics can often be unhealthy or dangerous to the minor. Instead, it seems as though Jandy Nelson is willing to write off the age difference for the sake of romance.
As long as the reader is able to themselves acknowledge the questionability of such a relationship, though, I think I’ll Give You the Sun is an excellent read for the young adult looking for a vibrant, often hilarious story jam-packed with plot twists and unforeseen connections. The novel won the Stonewall Honor award for its positive representation of an adolescent navigating his sexuality, and so I also recommend the book to students looking to see themselves represented—and represented well—in literature.
By Laura Kenney
Nelson, Jandy. I’ll Give You the Sun. New York: Dial , NY. Print.