Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun
This novel is the story of a family tragedy and its aftermath, narrated in alternating chapters by twins Noah and Jude. Noah’s narrative begins when the twins are 13. He’s the quiet one who dodges school bullies and spends all his time painting; Jude’s the outgoing one who is popular and daring. Despite their very different personalities, Noah and Jude are incredibly close. But Jude’s story, which takes place three years later, reveals that something terrible has happened, and she and Noah are no longer speaking. Noah is living in denial, trying to act like a “normal” teenager, and Jude is trying as hard as possible to be invisible. As the novel alternates between Noah’s story and Jude’s, the nature of their tragedy is revealed, and it becomes obvious that each twin only has half the story. In order to move past their family’s secrets, both twins will have to forgive themselves as well as each other. Meanwhile, Noah falls in love with the boy next door and must come to terms with his sexuality, while Jude searches for redemption through art.
You may not be able to tell from my woefully inadequate summary, but I loved, loved, LOVED this book! And I honestly wasn’t expecting to…YA contemporary is a genre that varies widely in quality, and I hadn’t heard much about this author, so I was quite wary going in. But I was almost immediately captivated by the energetic, vivid writing style and unexpected imagery. I usually think that the best writing style is the least obtrusive, but this book made me sit up and take notice, in a good way! I also felt deep sympathy for both Noah and Jude, who are each trying to figure out who they are, while being burdened with a huge weight of guilt. Despite their overly precocious voices, they felt like real human beings to me. I loved the book’s focus on visual art and was fascinated by Jude’s quest to make a sculpture out of stone, something that is apparently a dying art nowadays. There’s even a touch of magical realism, as Jude often talks to her Grandma Sweetwine’s ghost. In short, if the premise of this book seems at all appealing to you, I HIGHLY recommend it!
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