Review: I’ll Give You The Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson
70% dark chocolate. That’s what this novel is. It’s bitter, and a little bit sweet. Some people love it and some people hate it. If you love it you can’t get enough of it but if you hate it you want to throw it against the wall.
“I gave up practically the whole world for you,” I tell him, walking through the front door of my own love story. “The sun, stars, ocean, trees, everything, I gave it all up for you.”
I’ll Give You The Sun, Jandy Nelson, was published in 2014 and was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Young Adult Fiction. This novel doesn’t have a strong plot, there isn’t a climax that makes you fall off your seat. But there doesn’t have to be. I’ll Give You The Sun is about life. It’s about being a teenager and how much that sucks. It’s about family, first love, and friendship, all of the classic YA novel themes but this isn’t just another YA novel.
The layout of the novel is a bit out there. Important quotes from the book are made into artworks which enhance the importance of art to the story. This, along with the writing style, can take a while to get used to but once you’ve settled into it, the originality is enjoyable.
The novel is also split between Noah and Jude’s perspectives, Noah’s perspective is from when they were around 13 and Jude’s is from when they were around 16. Because of the non-linear story, the beginning can seem a bit slow, I see this as Nelson warming up and if you get past the first few chapters you won’t regret it.
Once you’ve settled into the story you will discover that Nelson’s writing is magic. She has created the perfect cocktail of poetry and novel writing. She has managed to create characters that feel so real yet absurd because they just don’t see the world the same way as most. Everything is different to them. It’s hard to tell whether what they’re seeing is just in their heads or not but either way, it makes the novel read like an extended poem.
“Because who knows? Who knows anything? Who knows who’s pulling the strings?”
The problem with poetry is that it breaks your heart then puts it back together a different way. Poetry doesn’t look at the box of your puzzle, it does what it likes. So be careful.
The characters that Nelson has painted into her story are abnormally surreal. They are all so intense, every moment with them is too real.
The sticky subject of identity is extremely prevalent. And the identity of a teenager is just that much harder to navigate. Unzipping yourself from your family and what they expect you to be can be so hard and both Noah and Jude struggle to find themselves apart from each other and their family.
In the beginning, Noah’s whole life is art. He paints in his head, with his hands, with his heart. When he loses art he struggles to find himself again. Is Noah still Noah without art? Surely art doesn’t make up his whole identity. What would make or break your identity?
As with many other stories, this novel is covered in the stench of death. The inevitability of it and the pain of it. The deaths of their family members affect Noah and Jude in dramatically different ways, or the same way, sending them into different universes.
“No one tells you how gone gone really is, or how long it lasts.”
Please don’t expect a realistic YA novel because that’s not what you’ll read. The writing isn’t realism and at times the plot is dramatically larger than life. But that doesn’t make it a bad story, personally, I think that makes it a better story. It’s so easy to lose yourself in the characters and their lives, I found it quite hard to put this one down.
This book made me want to plant trees and tear them down at the same time. It made me want to paint with all the paints in the world while singing at the top of my lungs. It made me feel so many things I needed to take three deep breaths to bring me back down to my bed.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11