It’s been a while since I’ve read a GOOD book. And by good book I don’t mean one that you’d recommend to a friend offhand, in passing as in ‘oh hey read this, it was good’. I mean GOOD as in it meant so frigging much to you that you don’t ever want to tall about it.
I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson narrates the story of a set of twins a la God Of Small Things that grow up together, grow apart and then find their way back to each other.
The narrative starts when they’re 13 years old and concludes when they’re 17. And in between, well, A LOT of things happen.
In Noah and Jude, we find thought and imaginative voices of childhood and growing up. Filled with self-absorbed imaginations and thoughts of typical 13 year olds, quite a few things set Noah and Jude apart from the other kids. Noah is a child prodigy gifted with a keen eye and deft hand. He paints the world around him in both his mind and his sketchbook. Jude is popular and wild, blessed with an aptitude for sculpting sand and communing with dead relatives.
“The worst thing that could ever happen to Noah has happened. He’s become normal.”
But their story is the story of their death. Their wide-eyed talent and hope for their futures dim all of a sudden and they transform into two completely different beings. Betrayal and lies drive them apart and their family breaks apart.
As far as the story goes, it’s a painfully poignant one. Watching Noah and Jude fall in love with separately, get their hearts broken and finally fixing each other is beautiful story. It’s got deep themes running through: sexuality, family, friendship and trust to name a few and even on the surface, plot holds up well. In that it feels like a rollercoaster.
But I’ll Give You The Sun is far from perfect.
Noah and Jude remain, perhaps, the only characters that seem to truly come out alive from the pages of the book. They think real thoughts and do real things. They match each other, word for word, thought for thought and action for action. Their stories are intertwined and in this duality lies their authenticity. The other characters sadly, fold back into the pages. They read like a well cooked stock pot of archetypes. There’s the tortured genius, the mysterious and devilishly handsome ‘bad boy’, the scientific and clueless father and the passionate and loving mother.
“Each new self standing on the last one’s shoulders until we’re these wobbly people poles?”
Jandy Nelson’s writing rises and dips in quality. In places her writing is masterful. It dishes out words poetically and lyrically, fashioning quotes that would look perfect on Tumblr, Twitter or even Instagram. In other places however, the writing jars. In places where she writes from the innocent viewpoint of the 13-year-old twins, she dabbles in a sort of pseudo-magical realism to bring the imaginations of the two children to life. In such places, the narrative feels like a choppy stop motion film. It skids and shudders, interrupting the flow and prompting the reader to read the lines several times to actually comprehend it.
But even with its skittish writing and rather typical characters, Jandy Nelson has written a gem of a book. It’s heart warming in the right places and tear jerking in all the others. See-sawing between the two, I’ll Give You The Sun is a worthy addition to anyone’s bookshelf.