I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is unique and quirky novel that I would not have heard of had it not been directly told to me about. It follows the story of two twins, Noah and Jude. The two narrate two different halves of their lives: Noah narrates at age 13, while Jude narrates at the age of 16, and their stories eventually line up to tell the whole picture that is left to be discovered. While the dual narrating is not a new concept, I thought the way that it supposedly intertwined was the unique aspect. As soon as I began reading, I knew that this book was going to be an adventure-filled read. Both Noah and Jude have different narration styles, but both are rather observant teenagers who know their way around words. Noah, being the more artistic one, occasionally interrupts his narrations with names of art pieces that he ‘draws’ in his head, such as “(PORTRAIT: Mom and Dad with Screeching Tea Kettles for Heads)” (17) when his parents are arguing loudly.  Another example would be when he talks about how Jude is different and more boy-savvy and he thinks of “(PORTRAIT: Jude Braiding Boy After Boy into Her Hair)” (57). In Jude’s narration, she throws in quotes that also relate to her current situation. When she is spontaneously having her picture taken, she thinks, “Every picture taken of you reduces your spirit / and shortens your life” (42).

Between Noah and Jude, I like Noah a lot more. Granted, we have read mostly Noah’s story so far and know much more about him, but he seems to be a more of a pariah than Jude, which allows for a different view on the world around him. His artistic background also contributes to this more careful and observant view of the environment, as shown when he says, “The sky’s gone blue: azure, the ocean bluer: cerulean, the trees are swirls of every hella freaking green on earth and bright thick eggy yellow is spilling over everything” (83). I appreciate his appreciation of nature, as it is something not shown as often in novels, but I think that such imagery should be included more. The colors add liveliness to the scene, and his excitement towards this scene only adds to that feeling of liveliness. His narration has plenty of poetic elements as well, as there are similes, metaphors, symbolism, and imagery constantly. One simple but strong metaphor would be when he comments, “A painting is both exactly the same and entirely different every single time you look at it. That’s the way it is between Judge and me now” (119).

Each chapter is rather lengthy, but I also enjoy it due to how much insight you get into each of their lives. The first quarter has been enjoyable, so I’m looking forward to the upcoming quarters.

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5 responses to “I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

  1. carmenthomsen

    I think this is one of the most wonderfully written books I have read in a while. Of course it is not comparable to the works of a world-renowned sophisticated author, but the honesty in the words really appeals to me. The truth that comes out in Jude and Noah make their story feel relatable, and I found it very easy to connect to them.

    I was also very captivated by the sincerity in Noah and Brian’s relationship. The awkwardness and, as I mentioned, honesty that is presented when Noah interacts with Brian seems to bring him to life. For example when Nelson writes, “I place it in his hands, watch his eyes dart up and down, down and up. I’m spiking a fever trying to tell if he likes it or not. I can’t tell. Then I try to see the picture through his eyes and an uh-oh-kill-me-noe feeling overtakes me. The Brian I made is him colliding at the top speed into a wall of magic. It’s nothing like the drawings of people I do at school. I realize with horror it’s not a drawing of a friend. I’m getting dizzy. Every line and angle and color screams how much I like him. I feel like Im wrapped and trapped in plastic” (91). Nelson does an amazing job of capturing Noah’s voice and feelings, which altogether make the writing exceptional.

    The juxtaposition between Noah and Brian is also something I found interesting. Noah is an introverted art-lover, whereas Brian is an extrovert with a knack for the sciences. Even their hair contrasts each other, Noah’s being dark and Brian’s being “a bonfire of white light” (66). Their differences make their dynamic very intriguing, and after the events that took place at the end of chapter three, I hope Brian remains a reoccurring character.

    Overall, I find myself drawn more towards Noah. I still think Jude is a fine character, but being an awkward lover of the arts myself, I find it easier to relate to him. I love his perspective and take on the world, it’s very honest and captivating. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed to finish his chapter and move on to Jude’s. I am really liking this book so far and am eager to keep reading, even though I am a little depressed after the end of chapter three.

    • carmenthomsen

      As you probably know I finished the book last week. I’m not entirely sure where you are in terms of reading and I don’t want to spoil any significant plot points, so excuse me if I seem rather vague about what I’m talking about.

      I’ve told you time and time again that this book is the greatest thing I’ve ever read, and I will stand by that. The novel really came to a nice ending, which I’m very glad about because I was stressing about the ending as I finished every chapter. As you’ll soon come to see, everything is connected. This made the book incredibly interesting and even more addicting. With out a doubt this is the most coincidental book I’ve read.

      This book also made me think about the value of language. Since the problems in this book are mainly born from a variety of misunderstandings and poor communication, it really made me think about all the misinterpretations one can go through. This book highlights the importance of communication in instances like Brian’s mixed signals at the movie theater when they hold hands, and Noah’s new persona he takes on as a sixteen-year-old. I think a vast majority of Jude and Noah’s problems could have been solved through clear communication.

      Also, this book continues to be brutally honest until the very end. It’s breathtakingly sweet and sincere. So much so that sometimes I had to put the book down and go get a glass of water or vent to my mom to chill out.

      This book is painfully addictive and I highly recommend that you finish it so we can talk about all the ridiculousness that happens at the end.

  2. After the first half of the book, events seem to pick up and Noah and Jude’s stories begin to connect. Although I mentioned that I enjoyed reading from Noah’s perspective just as much as you did and also a bit more than Jude’s, the recent second quarter is entirely focused on her story, and I think that this helped me to appreciate her character more. Because of the focus, the reader was able to get more ‘under her skin’ and see her development as a character, while her presence as a character in the first quarter was unknown and a bit confusing. What made me enjoy reading Jude’s narration was how her narration was the beginning of connecting the dots between their two stories. Also, a love interest, Brian, spiced up Noah’s story in the first quarter, and Jude’s love interest, Oscar, adds excitement to Jude’s narration. Both Brian and Noah and Oscar and Jude are pretty freaking adorable, but I’m leaning towards Oscar and Jude to be my preferred couple.

    To expand upon Oscar and Jude, they seem to mesh together so perfectly, and Oscar seems like a huge romantic, kind of like me, but not as hopeless. He compliments Jude even without knowing her too well, an example being: “Your eyes are so ethereal, your whole face is. I stared at picture of you for hours last night. You give me chills” (198). However, as flattering as that may be, what kind of guy actually says that to a semi-stranger, let alone a friend? Regardless, I thought it was pretty sweet. What really made me love Oscar was how he had photographs of Jude, taken from an earlier encounter, with a caption (written on a sticky note, placed on the photo), each subtly stating that he was falling in love with her. Fortunately for Jude, one was not so subtle, and she sees, “[A photo] of us kissing. Yes, kissing…The sticky on this one reads: ‘You asked what it would be like. This is what it will be like. I don’t want to be just friends'” (234-235). Oscar is probably the guy that many wish existed, but he most likely never will. I thought Oscar’s way of letting out his emotions through photos and manipulation of photos was rather creative and again, very endearing.

    Oscar’s love-dovey side isn’t the only reason why I like him though. He also has a rough backstory, like Jude and Noah. The only thing mentioned about this is, “[My incredibly sick and weak mother] spent fifteen hours on the floor, shivering, hungry, in excruciating pain, calling for me, while I was passed out cold [from gobbling down her pain meds] in the next room” (223). Although there is little context, the short anecdote is heart-wrenching and Nelson successfully makes the reader sympathize greatly for Oscar, or at least, me. The negative adjectives and nouns spread throughout that anecdote create strong imagery and mood, and this passage is definitely among one of the most despairing in the book. Lastly, drug misuse is an issue for a minority and less commonly referred to than drug abuse, but it still stands as an issue that shouldn’t be ignored.

    In the first half, I was thankful the story began to connect, but I was very enticed by the full introduction of Oscar due to his quirks with photography, his background, and his relationship/friendship with Jude. I’ve enjoyed this I’ll Give You the Sun a lot, and am predicting that the next half is just as great.

  3. So, my last post was a bit after half-way, but these chapters are so long and it’s rather hard to put down this book, so I went a bit ahead in terms of that post.

    Anyways, I am three-fourths of the way through Nelson’s wonderful novel, I’ll Give You the Sun, and I can safely say that this book is filled with a roller coaster of emotions, even without finishing the book itself yet. After finishing Jude’s section, it leaves off on a large cliffhanger before transitioning to Noah’s narration. I really enjoy the two different voices in Nelson’s work as I had mentioned in my first post as the pieces of the two puzzles start to lock together. It gives me an incredibly satisfying feeling when the two stories lock, particularly because of how the book leaves a multitude of questions unanswered until the end.

    I see what you mean about the mixed signals and communication through the novel, especially when Oscar has his pictures hanging of Jude with the endearing captions, but still invites this other girl into his room, and he even tells her to “sit on [his] lap” (236), while Jude is hiding in his closet after investigating the pictures of herself. I also related your point about Noah and Jude’s issues to how Jude is wanting to create a sculpture of themselves to free the two from stone, almost like how she is creating a more alive persona for herself and Noah. Some large miscommunication also occurs between Jude and Noah when he sees her online chat logs between her and another boy, mistaking a user under the name of “Spaceboy” to be Brian, Noah’s own love interest. As a result, he turns all of his preexisting doodles of Jude into scenes of her death, which seems a bit… severe to say the least.

    What really grabbed my attention was Brian and Noah’s rekindled intimacy, similar to how you were captivated in the first quarter. It was so adorable, oh my gosh. I honestly had expected Brian to just completely disappear from Noah’s life without warning, so it was a pleasant surprise to see his return. The highlight of their moment together would be when “In a flash, we’re through the door, across the street and into the woods, running for no reason and laughing for no reason and totally out of breath and out of our minds..” (271). This sentence seems so perfect of a time spent together and it demonstrates how close Brian and Noah are. Of course, this had to be ruined by Noah’s mother walking into their room as things get intimate, and that just ruined the mood. It was interesting how Nelson paired this with his mother also cheating on her husband, which further encouraged the reader to hate the mother. I thought this timing was well-planned and also differentiates this novel from many others as the mother turns from supposedly on the “good” side to the “bad” side.

    This section brought my attention to Nelson’s use of character development and twists in the plot for the most part. It only kept me reading and unable to put the book down. The final part of the picture will definitely be absolutely amazing, and what I’ve read as of now is astounding and brilliant.

  4. Upon the conclusion of I’ll Give You the Sun, it was certainly a wonderful roller-coaster of emotions, and as said by The Huffington Post, “This book will tear through you like a hurricane, leaving you in ruined awe.” The ending delivered a number of things: satisfying, shocking, but beautiful nonetheless. I’ll Give You the Sun deserves a 9.5/10.

    Firstly, the way the stories ended up connecting was wonderful. In one of Jude’s earlier narrations, she sees Noah running towards her, and then it cuts off to Noah’s narration. In his narration, we see him finding out about his mother cheating with Guillermo, and making the decision to tell Jude, and this is where the two stories finally intersect and the full story falls into place. The reader learns that the twins’ mother died on the way to see Guillermo, and the notes that Jude finds written by him to “Dearest” are really to her mother, which explains a signed copy of Jude’s mother’s book in Guillermo’s library as well. The two were secret lovers throughout the entire novel, but Nelson leaves the reader to attempt to connect the hints until the last few pages. Although a bit frustrating at times due to an incomplete story, I also did enjoy the scattered plot and trying to figure it out as the narration went on. The writing style was familiar, but it was also unique in the sense that it was two intertwined stories that met up. That style of writing has certainly been used before, but the plot seemed a lot more fleshed out than a few other books that I’ve read that follow a similar pathway. The reader is completely unsuspecting of the underlying problems within the family, but the bitter mood creeps into both of Noah and Jude’s narrations, starting with their personal hardships and then branching out into their familial issues. The soft transition makes it almost surprising to come to terms with how troubling the entire situation is when it is revealed at the end.

    However, the story still manages to end on a happy note, which is always a relief. Brian removed himself from Noah’s life after their mother walked into their relationship, possibly due to shame that the two were gay. Noah had been reaching out on a site for lost connections, and after months, Brian responds. Jude and Oscar begin their relationship, and all is well in their lives, despite the bombshell recently dropped on them that their mother had been cheating with Guillermo. It creates a sense of juxtaposition, where the twins are able to experience a fulfilling and endearing relationship while their parents’ relationship was very tumultuous. This juxtaposition is also seen through Noah and Jude’s individual narrations, before the entire story is connected. From the beginning, Jude has a slight edge of joy woven into her voice, as well as obvious maturity as she narrates from age 16. Noah is 14, more timid and more troubled, as the novel’s introduction is his narration and the scene is one where he is being bullied. It creates distinct personalities for the twins, and these diverse personalities made the story much more enjoyable to read. It allowed a lot of room for character growth, specifically for Noah, and the way that their battles as a family and as an individual affect them is evident from beginning to end.

    Nelson has truly crafted a wonderful novel, and I think that this is a book that should be much more well-known. I know I would have never gotten to read this brilliant novel without your suggestion of it, Carmen, but I am so grateful that you did.

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