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I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson


Jude and her twin Noah are close until a tragedy drives them apart. Now they are barely speaking – and both falling for boys they can’t have. Love’s complicated.

Wow! This book was just absolutely stunning. Every single page was a real work of art, shining with literary elegance. This will compete to be one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Initially what attracted me to this book was the fact that it’s about twins. Being a triplet myself, I tend to take advantage of reading stories about multiple births, because I like to see how writers approach the subject. I related to this book because I love my sisters intensely the way that Jude loves her brother Noah, but that doesn’t mean that it’s plain sailing growing up. When bad things happen between you, there is that tinge of sadness and longing there that means you will always find yourself back to each other and making up. This strong, loving bond was so apparent in this book and is probably part of the reason I fell in love with it.

If one twin is cut, the other will bleed

I love how each of the twins have a very distinct voice, and yet both voices are written so poetically. The way they think and the way the narrative is written completely reflects the twins’ artistic personalities. Noah expresses his views and perceptions of life by regularly imagining the situations he finds himself in as paintings or portraits, and gives each one a name:

…the yelling reaches us.

It’s loud, like the house might break in two. Same as the other times lately.

(Portrait: Mom and Dad with Screeching Tea Kettles for Heads.)

Noah also speaks in metaphors throughout the book which gives the narrative a real richness and makes it unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Instead of saying something straight forward like “I muster up courage and fight back,” he says, “So I grow. And grow, and grow, until I head-butt the sky. Then I count to three and go freaking berserk.” Instead of saying, “I was thinking a lot about Brian,” he says “And then it happens. Brian rises out of the darkness of my and takes my hand like he did in the movie theater and pulls me to him.”

Jude, on the other hand, has become super-paranoid, agnostic, and superstitious since the tragedy occurred, and responds to every day situations in her life by pressing some kind of old wives’ tale, fable, or proverb on to them:

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.

Things don’t really turn out like you think.

To reverse destiny, stand in a field with a knife pointed in the direction of the wind.

Her late grandmother is with her wherever she goes, and she lives her life by her grandmother’s superstitions, as a way of keeping her close to her. It’s Jude own personal coping mechanism, and again, this fact oozes out from the pages without having to be spelled out. What makes this terrific writing is that Nelson doesn’t need to explicitly spell out how her characters feel or think – the narrative style does all the talking, so that with each new beautifully written sentence, we get to know the twins and how their minds work in a much more intimate manner.

There are a number of love stories in this book, and I think the author portrays and conveys love so convincingly, far more than a lot of other authors I’ve read recently. I could almost feel the love in my own heart as I read through each couple’s stories. Their passion, desire and heartbreak seep through the pages and enter your head and heart.

Each character is so wonderfully unique and vivid, and their quirks, strengths and weaknesses are well developed. The twins’ family feels like a real family, and I really grew to love Brian and Oscar, the twins’ respective love interests. This book makes us realise as well that no one is perfect, and that mistakes can be made by the best of us, even with the best intentions.

I’ll Give You The Sun seems to have it all: gorgeously artistic language, fantastic characters, great pace, love stories, intrigue, mystery, and scandal – all with the accessibility of a Young Adult novel. It is an absolute masterpiece of a book. You need to read this. I don’t tend to score things by stars, but this one is a ten out of five. Amazing.

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