Author: Jandy Nelson
Publisher: Dial/Penguin/Brialliance Audio, September 2014
Genre: Young Adult Literature
Format: Audiobook Narrated by Julia Whelan and Jesse Bernstein
As the story opens, twins Jude and Noah are 13. They’ve always been competitive with each other, but now that the teen years are upon them, it seems to be ratcheted up a couple of notches.
The twins have always played games with each other. One of their favorites is dividing up the universe and claiming different parts for themselves. Parts of the universe are used to barter with each other when one has something the other wants. For instance, when Noah has a picture of an extremely attractive boy, Jude trades the sun for the picture. Hence the title of the book, “I’ll Give You the Sun.”
Both Noah and Jude are artistic which has been encouraged by their mother. Noah draws almost continuously and compulsively. As Noah works his way through the trauma and drama of middle school social life, he finds himself at odds with the other kids, especially as he works through his growing awareness that he is attracted to boys. Instinctively, he knows he has to keep this a secret, not only from his sister, but his sports-loving father as well.
Jude is fearless. She’s a cliff-jumper and a surfer (they live near the ocean in southern California). Jude is one of the popular girls, but she’s also a little strange. She believes that she can see and hear her grandmother who was, when alive, a bit kooky. Jude also believes in all sorts of superstitions. She’s likely to have an onion or other unusual objects in one of her pockets.
The story is told from the perspective of both Jude and Noah. At the beginning I heard primarily Noah’s story. When Jude’s story comes, its three years later. As the story unfolds, questions were raised in my mind. I know something happened to the twin’s mother, but what? Also, there’s a talented sculptor. How does he fit into the lives of this family? Ah, I decided. This story is part mystery. But – there’s more.
The relationship between the twins was interesting to examine. There was no doubt they loved each other, but had grown apart. Their separation was painful for them and painful to watch. I felt that, if they would just spend some solid time together, they could get rid of the dishonesties and work out their misunderstandings.
The relationship is the heart of this story. Traumatic events happen to the twins, but their inability to mature and find happiness stems from their broken relationship. There is a quote at the beginning of the book that is so appropriate to the story.
It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. — E.E. Cummings
The teenage years are tough for almost all of us. That final push into adulthood can be so treacherous. Noah and Jude’s experience may have been a dramatic one, but I think there’s something in here for all of us to identify with. It’s not all gloom and doom. I found myself laughing as well.
I’ll Give You the Sun ranks up there with The Fault In Our Stars, Eleanor and Park and Fan Girl. This book will probably be on my best-of-the-year book list. I never would have read this book if it weren’t for my eldest granddaughter, Q. She is the one who recommended it. This girl really knows how to pick the best books and I’m glad I pay attention to her. Thanks Q.
UPDATE: I’ll Give You the Sun was awarded this year’s Printz Award by the American Library Association.