I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson
I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is a complex story about FAMILY, secrets, GRIEF, love, growing up, FINDING AND BECOMING YOURSELF, self-esteem, and art.
It’s perfectly described in one of the epigraphs with the following e. e. cummings quote, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are” (spoiler alert: It takes a whole lot of courage. And it’s incredibly difficult). The novel reflects on the journey to becoming that person.
FROM GOODREADS: Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
TRIGGER WARNINGS: rape, bullying, suicidalness, death.
I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is a book about…
-that moment when you learn you need to put up walls to survive. But it is also a book about tearing them down, or at least, learning to.
-growing up. Growing apart. People distancing themselves from their own selves.
-learning to live in the aftermath of tragedy. How do you go on after your worst fears have become true? How do you live like that?
-discovering yourself, making yourself; hating the person you have become and then finding your way back to yourself again.
-how different lives intersect for better or worse.
But Nadia, what about the LGBTQIA+ aspect of the book?
LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT IT.
One of the twins, Noah identifies as gay, as well as another supporting character.
Noah’s queerness is an important part, but it’s not the entire plot, it’s not what the book is about. I believe this might just be the kind of book people mean when they say they want a queer book “that is not about coming out”. Noah does struggle with being gay, and it is a secret that weighs him down, but his queerness is it’s also celebrated in the way the author describes his feelings and his crush. The best part is that the queer romance is it’s just as beautiful, meaningful and earth shattering as the other romances present in the book.
This novel really captures the feeling of when you know you are queer, and your existence suddenly feels like a “life or death” situation if others were to find out about it. Or that feeling you get when/if your crush doesn’t feel the same way about you, and is instead disgusted by you, which then helps reinforce the thought that you are alone and not worth it.
Like I said, it’s not about him being gay, but it is about him discovering his queerness and it being a part of him. And more specifically how it colors and affects his growth and life (past, present and future).
“I’m thinking the reason I’ve been so quiet all those years is only because he wasn’t around yet for me to tell everything to.”
And what about the writing?
Then of course you have the freaking prose.
Oh my Clark Gable, can Jandy Nelson write! (if/when you read the book you’ll get the Clark Gable joke). Her writing is lyrical and stunning. Her characters are fleshed out in such a way that you can actually feel their pain. It wouldn’t surprise me if they managed to jump out of the page and accompany you while you read (although that would be creepy huh).
Proof of this lady’s gift:
“This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders.”
“Meeting your soulmate is like walking into a house you’ve been in before – you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”
The book is told in alternating chapters, Noah relates the past at 13 years old, and Jude the present at 16 years old. Jandy Nelson is aware of what she’s doing, and she does it well. This creative decision of connecting the past and present, and connecting the twin’s’ actions and reactions through time absolutely works, and it would be hard to picture the book done in a different way.
Some criticisms (SPOILERS)
-At times it felt a bit misogynistic, with Noah’s commentary about women, calling them demons. I let it slide because Noah felt that way mostly about everyone that he didn’t like, and because that was said in the same scene in which he was assaulted by a woman so it would make sense for him to feel that way.
-I wanted more of Noah and Brian in the conclusion. I wanted more of Noah’s dad talking about his son’s queerness. I know the book ends with a Jude chapter because it’s the present, but I wanted more.
All in all, taking the good and the bad, reading I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN was a very rich experience. Noah broke my fucking heart. Jude broke my fucking heart. Everything was beautiful and everything hurt.
Get some tissues and a highlighter when you get down to reading it. But most of all be prepared because I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN will break your heart, and then put it back together. You must let it.
And if none of this satisfies you, I suggest reading the following sentence from the book so you can have an excellent idea if it’s for you or not, because this is exactly what it’s about:
“(…)we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.” (p. 354 from the ARC)
(P.D: BY THE WAY, did anyone else read Noah as neuroatypical? My best friend works with neuroatypical children and while reading she told me she believed Noah fit the criteria. What do you think?)
Nadia spends most of her day tweeting and daydreaming. Lover of books, comics, dogs and chinese food. Find her on twitter @heartless_tree