Jandy Nelson’s award-winning YA novel I’ll Give You the Sun delivers love, connection, and human frailty—along with a surprising twist.
I received the book I’ll Give You the Sun from my aunt about a year ago. It has been one of my favorite novels ever since. It has a beautiful balance of character development and story, and Noah and Jude (who are twins) are such different characters, and it all makes for a wonderful, harmonious, and relatable story.
I’ll Give You the Sun is a unique book in the sense that not only does the narrator switch back and forth between the two main characters, but the timeline alternates along with the narrator. Jude and Noah’s voices are so different yet complementary. They push the plot along, keeping the reader guessing until the big reveal at the end of the book.
Noah’s story takes place when he and Jude are 13 years old, and Jude’s story follows up when they are 16. Their stories come together at these different times to frame, and later explain, what happens to characters in both future and past, resulting in a very rich and complex storyline.
I’ll Give You the Sun
The characters aren’t lacking in depth, either. Noah is a talented artist struggling with bullies and his emerging sexuality. Jude has regrets about her past and lives according to her dead grandmother’s superstitions. They both have relatable and surprising experiences as they navigate their teen years. Neither Noah nor Jude is perfect—in fact, they are far from it. But that’s just what makes their characters remarkable yet easy to understand.
I’ll Give You the Sun manages to tackle difficult subject matter cleverly and successfully. It also has elements reminiscent of the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda, popularized by the recent film “Love, Simon,” so I would certainly recommend it to fans of that movie.
I’ll Give You the Sun takes many subjects and puts them all into a format that is both unconventional and fascinating. It’s a book that, based on my experience, readers would enjoy immensely.
Mina Jones is an eighth grader at Haas Hall Academy in Fayetteville, AR. She is Jess Lahey’s niece.
Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun was recommended to me by a friend, and I was immediately drawn into the book’s world of smart, interesting, and engaging characters. I’ve probably purchased 15 copies of this book in the past year, and every person I’ve given it to, adult and teen alike, has adored it.
The central characters and narrators, Noah and Jude, are twins with secrets. For most of their lives, Noah and Jude were close friends, connected by blood, artistic talent, and their quirky family. Something—at first, the reader does not know what—has come between them, however, and their relationship has changed. Noah and Jude are no longer close, no longer trust each other, and have lost faith in the bonds that hold their family together.
I fell in love with Noah immediately, as his character struggles to conceal and understand his homosexuality and artistic talents while maintaining a sense of humor about the futility of trying to bend the world to his expectations.
Noah yearns to be an artist. His understanding of the world and of the people around him are framed in terms of portraits, visual descriptions that fill Noah’s mental gallery. We pass by portraits of shame, humiliation, fear, yearning, and love, and through these descriptions, develop a clear picture of Noah and his life.
Jandy Nelson Books
Jude, however, defies mere visual description. Jude doesn’t want to be seen by Noah or by the reader, and, consequently, remains a mystery to all of us. Where Noah shows, Jude tells, but only what she wants people to know—and then, only when she’s ready.
I was impatient, I have to admit, as I read I’ll Give You the Sun. I wanted answers that would help me understand what caused Noah and Jude to lose each other when they should have been each other’s closest allies.
According to author Jandy Nelson’s website, one of her favorite quotes is by Virginia Woolf, from the novel To the Lighthouse: “The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.”
Don’t fret, faithful reader: Noah and Jude’s revelations do come, eventually, in the form of small illuminations, and they are well worth your patience and effort.
Jess Lahey is a teacher and the author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed.