When they were thirteen, nothing seemed able to pull them apart. Noah was in love with drawing and with the boy who collected meteorites. Jude wore the brightest red lipstick and as little clothing as possible.
When they were sixteen, something had put a wall in between them. Noah wasn’t Noah anymore. Jude wasn’t Jude anymore.
The NoahandJude from three years ago doesn’t exist three years later.
So I went to the library to return a book just in the nick of time. And silly me I forgot that I was at a library. Where there were books. So many of them. All waiting for me to bring them home. I swear, I could hear them talking to me in my head. What could I do?
I went home with four books to add to my growing pile at home.
I just couldn’t help it when I saw I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I’ve been wanting to read this book since I first saw it on a Goodreads giveaway that I (sadly) did not win.
This book gave me a TFIOS-vibe. But I liked this book more because the characters felt emotionally closer to me. They were just regular teenagers who screwed up because who doesn’t? Anybody who liked TFIOS or Rainbow Rowell’s works should read this.
When a story has two POVs, it is rather difficult for the writer to distinguish between the voices. I thought Nelson did a really good job at doing so. Noah and Jude had distinctive styles of thinking and speaking but also similar enough for readers to be reminded that “oh, that’s right, they’re twins!”
The way Nelson writes is for the most part enjoyable. It was pleasant. I did find it jarring when vocabulary like “asshat” came up. Am I just out of touch with my teenage self? It felt like Nelson was punching in the face, shouting at me that this was how teenagers spoke.
It was especially intriguing how Noah and Jude functioned in their lives. Noah relies on his mind-painting where he almost sees inside people (a soul-seer?) and is able to bring their souls to surface with colour and vibrancy. Granted, it can be biased but it was still interesting to see his thinking. Jude relies on a bible full of superstitious luck to decide what choices she makes. She doesn’t take chances. She needs to be insured against disaster and wants control over her life.
Noah and Jude were exceptionally well-developed characters which isn’t much of a surprise since the POVs are of them. I only wish that the other characters were more developed. Like Heather. Who is she? What makes her so different from the other girls? Or Oscar who I find just so extremely bland and cliché. Is ‘hot, tortured, British guy’ the new stock character? They seem to come up a lot.
Or better yet, Brian! We never found anything out about Brian besides the fact that he does math problems in his head, he has a wicked pitching arm, and a troubled childhood. Exactly who is Brian?
While the format of this story is fresh and new (two POVs with one covering the first couple of years and the next the last couple of years) it sometimes hindered the development of the story. Noah’s story, for example. Sure, he explains what and why he turned out this way, but it felt more like he was shoving the information in our faces rather than letting it flow out. We don’t learn that much about Jude except what Noah tells us and he hates her for a good part of his life.
I was kind of indifferent for most of the romance between Jude and Oscar. I didn’t get the ‘chills’ or the feeling that blood was rushing up into my face. I didn’t see the need for the Prophecy to forward the relationship with Jude and Oscar. Oscar meeting Jude felt boring. Like it was inevitable. Like it was fated. Their romance wasn’t emotionally developed enough for me to care.
What I really loved though, was how Jude came to Oscar. How she practically gave up the whole world for him:
“I wish he were real,” she says. […] “Can I have [him]?”
[…] “For the sun, stars, oceans, and all the trees, I’ll consider it” I say, knowing she’ll never agree. […] We’ve been dividing up the world since we were five. I’m kicking butt at the moment-universe domination is within my grasp for the first time.
“Are you kidding?” she says, standing up straight. […] “That leaves me just the flowers, Noah.”
Fine, I think. She’ll never do it. It’s settled, but it isn’t. She reaches over and props up the pad, gazing at the portrait like she’s expecting the English guy to speak to her.
“Okay, she says. “Trees, stars, oceans. Fine.”
“And the sun, Jude.”
“Oh, all right,” she says, totally surprising me. “I’ll give you the sun.”
“I practically have everything now!” I say. “You’re crazy!”
“But I have him.“
That can be considered overkill or just really sweet and kind of realistic in the irrational way. When we love somebody, aren’t we willing to destroy the whole world to keep them with us? What makes giving up the world different?
But the donut scene. What was that? Was that really necessary? Was it for comedic relief? It was kind of funny at first, but then I was perplexed by the end of it. A giant HUH? sign was above my head, horns blaring and lights flashing. Did I miss some hidden meaning behind it all? Someone enlighten me please because I don’t know how I can eat a donut like a normal person anymore.
I was swept up in Noah and Brian’s story though. It was more rounded and full. It was disappointing to not see it expanded in the latter part of Noah’s life. I was taken on a serious emotional gymnastic routine when I was reading about their romance.
There was an ark-load of metaphors in this book. Some of the metaphors were thought-provoking but having so many of them made it difficult for me to keep up. A few times, I felt it was overwhelming. Some straddled the line between symbolic and overly dramatic. Some of them were beautifully worded and placed:
Over and over again, day after day, all I wanted was for her to see me, to really see me. […] Not to keep reaching inside me to turn down the light while at the same time reaching into Noah to turn his to full brightness. […]
But what if I don’t need her permission, her approval, her praise to be who I want to be and do what I love What if I’m in charge of my own damn light switch?
Simplicity in metaphors can be a beautiful thing as well:
[…] he pushes me against a tree and kisses me so hard I go blind.
Ultimately, the book ends in a separation of the two twins. They began as NoahandJude. They became Noah and Jude. But they were still shoulder to shoulder. They didn’t have to share a soul. They had their own individual souls that were intertwined together. Jude can give Noah the sun because she has her own. She can create her own. Jude and Noah have the ability to make and remake their worlds.