[REVIEW] I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

Characters – 5/5
Plot – 5/5
Setting – 4/5
Style – 5/5
Overall – 5/5

“Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,” I say. “Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as 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.”

I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is a heart-warming story that encompasses love in all its forms; family, friends and romance. The underlying focus is Jude’s desperate need to reconnect with her twin, Noah and their furious mother, after life has torn them all apart. Joining Jude at age 16 and Noah aged 13, we experience both sides of their tragic story in a brilliant format – large sections are narrated by each character to provide a true sense of their personalities at various points in time.

Noah and Jude are both brilliant artists, inspired and encouraged by their wild mother and grounded by their logical father. Noah dreams of art school and tries to make himself invisible to everyone but the boy next door, while Jude jumps off cliffs, kisses boys and raises hell. Their worlds come crashing down when tragedy strikes and I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN tells the story of their lives in the before and after, revealing how Jude both tears apart and brings the family back together.

Jude as a young teenager is an immensely unlikeable character. She is cruel and destructive and rebels against her family more than most 13 year olds would dare. Yet, three years later she is our heroine determined to set things right. As a narrator she is vulnerable and the pain she feels leaves her raw and unhinged. The way Jandy has worked these two personalities into Jude is masterful; she found a firm place in my heart for showing her capacity to change and to open herself up to love.

13 year old Noah is as vibrant as the paintings he imagines. He’s passionate, funny and full of an infectious energy that just leaps off the page. Easily the most endearing character with his innocence and lust for life. Yet as a 16 year old, he is cold and distant, choosing to shut Jude out no matter how hard she tries. The seamless execution of this role reversal is just a further credit to Jandy’s brilliant character development.

I loved delving into each twin’s personality and learning how they have chosen to protect themselves against the harsh realities of life throughout the years. Even secondary characters such as Guillermo and Oscar are treated with great attention to detail with exciting backstories that reflect in their actions today.

The plot really drew me in and kept me guessing all the way through. There was a real sense of honesty about the different relationships explored and this was carried beautifully throughout; no clichés in sight. There were a few little surprises and some major reveals towards the end that shocked me and gave an extra depth to the whole story; seeing glimpses of characters’ past decisions and how their personalities have been shaped by the consequences.

The writing flows like a river and is bright, colourful and lively. Jude and Noah have very distinctive voices but they feel linked somehow. Noah often interrupts his own thoughts with ideas for the paintings he’ll create at the end of the day and Jude argues with her desire and references her grandma’s superstitions constantly, creating a nice mirroring effect.

I really fell in love with I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN and would absolutely recommend this one not only to fans YA, but of books that explore the true nature of love and family. It’s a real work of art in its own right and left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. I will definitely be picking up a copy of Jandy’s first standalone, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE, to experience more of her wonderful words.


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