jandy nelson‘s (2014) i’ll give you the sun (penguin young readers) is an absolutely fabulous book! this 2015 printz award winner and 2015 stonewall honor book is one of my all-time favorite YA books! it’s one of those books that you read even when you have WAY too much to do because it’s just that good!
nelson’s book is refreshingly raw and avoids overly dramatizing jude and noah, the brother-sister twins at the center of this dark, mysterious, artsy, and beautiful text. nelson’s writing gets into your soul; little gems (e.g. “evangelical daffodil”) await you as you become immersed in nelson’s sharp, engagingly disorienting text.
here are my three reasons for loving i’ll give you the sun:
(1) it’s a brother-sister book. though nelson includes a variety of couples in her text, jude and noah, a brother and sister (who each narrate the book at different times), are central characters. nelson portrays the often unexplored relationship between siblings and includes the tragic and beautiful connection between the two (something that resonated personally with me). i admire nelson’s ability to give jude and noah such distinct voices. both unique, deep, and complex, they each reveal important aspects of the pain and guilt they experience after traumatic life events, some which they share and others they suffer through alone. as the text continues, readers come to find out how these siblings come to realize the power of their deep, pure connection.
(2) it’s an art book. nelson provides a glimpse into the power of art in people’s lives. children of an art expert, jude and noah are artists who, at times, struggle to figure out who they are as people and artists – sometimes because of their own doing and other times because of others’ doings. avoiding hackneyed portrayals of the teenage artist, nelson’s jude and noah understand art’s healing and humanizing qualities.
(3) it’s a real book. one of my favorite sayings in college was “keep it real,” and nelson definitely does this in i’ll give you the sun. her dynamic cast of characters are dynamic and raw. she depicts the the human spirit as capable of enduring and persevering through violence, pain, and guilt. readers feel jude and noah’s despair and happiness. without portraying stereotypical, angry, soul-searching teenagers, nelson normalizes the depths of teenagers’ emotions, capturing the realities they face.
truly sublime, nelson’s i’ll give you the sun is about the power of having a story (in whatever medium) inside yourself and needing so desperately to tell it.