Identity, passion, reconciliation: these are all factors people often face, in one way or another, throughout their lives.
Jandy Nelson covers all these topics in her second book, “I’ll Give You the Sun.”
Twins Jude and Noah are incredibly close during their childhood. While completely different, the two balance each other’s passion with love and support. They trade parts of the world in an endless game of tug-of-war to see who can own the best, and most, in their imaginary game.
Then at 13, their mother dies in a car accident. Jude and Noah fall away from one another as each handles the grief of her passing differently. For Noah, it involves involvement in activities. Unlike her brother, Jude folds in on herself, secluding herself from old friends and dedicating her time to her art.
When Jude discovers a secret about her mother’s past, she must reconsider everything she thought she knew about her childhood, her mother’s expectations and even her own self.
While “I’ll Give You the Sun” is marketed toward young adults and adolescents, Jandy Nelson’s craft of the novel makes it an enjoyable and wholly entertaining read for all ages, especially college students.
Nelson describes the pressure Jude feels after her mother’s passing to live up to certain expectations left in her mother’s wake, including attending a prestigious art school. Compare this to choosing a major, not for your own happiness, but for the happiness of your parents.
Scared of disappointment, Jude tries her hardest to live up to the remnants of her mother while losing her own sense of identity. Jude’s experience offers a relatable character in a relatable scenario: trying to master the wants and desires of others while living up to expectations for ourselves.
The book also has plenty of hilarity to add to the more serious plot line. The sculptor Guillermo Garcia’s dramatism offers a break from subjects like depression and lost love. The cocky college student Oscar Ralph is the perfect blend of bad-boy-meets-class-clown. Finally, Grandma Sweetwine adds humor without being a physical character. Jude’s interpretation of her crazy superstitions adds color and flavor to the lives of the twins and other characters in the novel.
The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the change in character perspectives per chapter. This is a more personal preference rather than author execution.
Nelson’s chapters changed from Jude’s perspective to Noah’s and back again, allowing the reader a full understanding of both twins’ feelings. However, I always find with changing perspectives that I like one more than the other. In this case, I was always more excited to read Jude’s chapters than Noah’s.
While both perspectives were excellent, this made reading the book unenjoyable at times.
If you’re looking for a good read to pick up between class projects or papers, I’d highly recommend “I’ll Give You the Sun.” Jandy Nelson’s writing is superb, her handling of difficult topics is met with grace and each of her characters is well-developed, making this a highly enjoyable and emotional novel.