This month’s Recommended Read comes from our work experience student, Amy Parry who reviews the celebrated Young Adult novel, I’ll Give You The Sun.
The novel follows what happens to twins Jude and Noah Sweetwine three years before and three years after the tragedy of their mother’s death. The two close siblings are torn apart by the hardships of teenage life alongside their contrasting personalities; to then be linked by their love of art.
Both wanted to make their art critic mother; Dianne Sweetwine, proud by attending the highly sought after California School of Arts (CSA); however the loss of their mother both fuels and diminishes this desire. The two also experience first love, betrayal, friendship, family and loss.
“Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you’ve been in before – you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.” – Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun
At thirteen Noah is isolated with only his love of drawing and the charismatic Brian; while Jude wears risqué clothing and likes to cliff dive with her newly found popular friends, she’s “that girl”. Just three years later the tables are turned, Noah becomes the popular reckless young man with a disregard for love and Jude cuts her hair and swaps her dresses for formless clothing, she becomes “that girl”, and the once close siblings no longer speak to each other. This novel has us routing for the twins in hope they rekindle their friendship with one another.
Nelson’s structural choice to have the narrative from both Noah’s and Jude’s perspective at different points in time can at some times be confusing for the reader however both perspectives equally capture the teenage angst and sexual awakening they experience. As Noah’s perspective is when he is aged thirteen we can conclude there may be possible bias in the way a thirteen year old boy would perceive the world. The same for Jude’s perspective but at age sixteen. The contracting time lines also present how the protagonists saw events, some of which they both experienced, and how these events have been understood differently therefore leaving the reader to make their own conclusions on what really happened.
The novel is targeted towards a young adult audience but it still should be noted that there is explicit language, teen drinking, and the mention of drug use, rape, bullying and the mention of suicide. Like most Young Adult fiction it covers some controversial topics with the intent to educate readers. Also young readers may become confused at times as the novel jumps from past to present while the novel retraces the rift between the twins.
“When people fall in love, they burst into flames.” – Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun
Nelson’s novel is appealing to those who enjoy an idyllic story of first love. The book it’s self covers this: “male leads in love stories need to be devoted, need to chase trains, cross continent”. The target reader may have preconceived ideas of relationships, however this book tries to mix the fantasy and reality of falling in love for the first time. Alongside with the modern day context we the readers are made to fall in love for the first time again and to then feel the heartbreak that follows.
For art fans this novel is an interesting way to view the topic. It ties in with the characters and the narrative as it is the common ground that links the two contrasting protagonists. This theme gives an introduction to the art world for those who are unfamiliar with it.
This book is recommendable to someone who enjoys a challenge when reading as it is a long read but I also found it hard initially to engage with the narrative as the chapters were very long and lacking in places to pause. Overall it’s an interesting read about art, first love and teenage hardships however some determination is needed to complete the novel.