Thursday, August 11, 2016

Book Review: 'I'll Give You the Sun' by Jandy Nelson

This book was recommended to me by several people, and I am happy to report that it did not disappoint. But I can also say it was nothing like I thought it would be, in any regard.

I'll Give You the Sun follows two separate stories told by Noah and Jude, twin brother and sister. Noah's chapters are told when he and Jude were 13 and 14, meanwhile Jude's chapters take place when the twins are 16. Much has happened in the three-ish years between the narratives, and that is immediately evident. Noah and Jude are both artists, but as Jude points out on countless occasions, art was always more of Noah's thing. While they appear to be somewhat of a typical family, I'll Give You the Sun covers several topics you don't typically see in a YA contemporary novel. In this story, we hear the other side of being a family; animosity that grows between siblings, no less twins. In this case, we learn a lot about the Sweetwine family; things we normally wouldn't say out loud. Things like you secretly hate your father. Things like taking actual measures to sabotage the people you love. Things like you secretly resent your sibling because they get more love from one of your parents, even if that parent would never admit it.

I'll Give You the Sun
just seems like a really refreshing take on the bonds between brother and sister, as well as our feelings toward our family as we try to figure out who we are during a very formative time of adolescence. I saw a few critics criticize the repeated artistic metaphors used in the narratives, which a lot of times can indeed be perceived as cheesy or cliché, but in this case, they just worked. You know when you read something you know is just so goddamn corny, but you just can't help holding a hand to your heart? That's the best way I can describe the metaphors and relationships in I'll Give You the Sun. In my opinion, there's no way to deny there are many things in this book that are so poignantly used. It's written in a very sophisticated tone, almost above the characters' age brackets.

I don't want to openly criticize this book, because I want to appreciate it for what it is (which is a very touching, remarkable story), but I did have a few issues with it while reading. I found the beginning, which starts with 13-year-old Noah, to be a bit slow. I really couldn't figure out where the story was going to go. There were a lot of things about how it was written that I didn't understand, but I powered through, because I was intrigued to learn about the things in the plot I didn't quite grasp (I think all of them were explained by the end). Also, the chapters were too long. I ended up blowing through the book faster than expected because I kept telling myself to read until the next chapter; then it was 90+ pages later. But the main thing that became a bit of a drag while reading I'll Give You the Sun was the writing style. It was a bit annoying at times. Both Noah and Jude have their own quirks which only their own mind can really comprehend, like Noah's Invisible Museum or the fact that Jude talks to her dead grandmother, who has a bible of strange virtues. It just got to be a bit much, and there were times where I wasn't completely sure what was happening; I don't think I'll Give You the Sun is the type of story that warrants the type of writing style where sometimes we struggle to decipher what's going on, so that's why it was a bit of a bother at times. But like I said, I'm going to appreciate this book for what it is and forgive its trespasses, because, underneath it all, it did have parts that destroyed me emotionally and I believe it to be a story that deserves to be read. 4.5/5 stars.

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