“I’ll Give You the Sun”

I'll Give You the SunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

“How can love be such a wrecking ball?”

Noah and Jude are twins who have distinct personalities but sense that they are two halves of a perfect whole. While both are artistic (like their mom), Noah is the quieter child. He envisions the world and his experience in it as a series of artworks, which he is always naming (“GROUP PORTRAIT: All the Glass Boys Shatter)”. Jude is more of a risk-taker. At first her risks are challenges like surfing. But about the time she is fourteen, she begins to act out, taking risks with older boys. She depends on the wisdom of superstitions handed down from her grandmother to keep her safe in love (“Nothing curdles love in the heart like lemon on the tongue”). Ironically, misunderstandings fueled by their artistic impulses and rivalries for their parents’ affection are pulling Noah and Jude apart. While still in high school, their deep connection is severed. They are both living the reality of their family’s story, but for each it is half a reality. And they can only complete their visions of themselves and their futures by becoming one again and learning what the other half already knows.

While the twins alternately tell their tales, Jude immediately jumps ahead to after the point when tragedy has stricken the family. Noah moves more slowly discussing his art, his realization that he is in love with Brian, a friend who is equally a nerd (often searching for meteorites) and very cool. Brian seems to have the world in the palm of his hand–except that he feels he can never tell anyone about his feelings for Noah as this would cause shaming among his baseball teammates. It would risk the loss of his private high school and college scholarship opportunities.

Jude channels ghosts. Her grandma’s specter helps her and gives her advice. But there is another ghost who breaks every piece of artwork that Jude makes. This convinces Jude that she will never be forgiven for a great betrayal, unless she can somehow make a sculpture in marble—something not so easily broken. This leads Jude to seek out the help of a famous sculptor, one who is far more significant in her life’s story than she could know. And one who is about to break and recast the twins’ world.

High school housekeeping: The emotionality of I’ll Give You the Sun is so textured, so strikingly real. Any teen can love this book, but those who feel that their own imagination is being stifled will find many good lessons, and even, perhaps, the courage to push their way into the inspired life they were meant to live. Questions about how important it is to simply feel alive and how important it is to feel safe—and how the two are sometimes in conflict—are woven throughout the tales of the twins. The desperation of their need when they are separated from their own creativity is palatable. Their grief, unresolved.

“No one tells you how gone gone really is, or how long it lasts.”

The title of the novel comes from a childhood game that Noah and Jude play. They have a vast universe between them, and they trade its elements. To get the sun, Noah gives Jude a portrait of a beautiful man, one that mesmerizes Jude.

While there is so much tragedy in this novel, there is also so much happiness, such coincidental good fortune. It’s very much like life. For people to admit the terrible things they do to one another is the beginning of repair. And the secret to a life infused with creative endeavors is to turn toward the desire to create. And begin.


About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
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2 Responses to “I’ll Give You the Sun”

  1. kingllane says:

    After reading this review, I was motivated to find out more about this book. I’m embarrassed to say, but I’d never heard of the Printz award before now. I purchased the audible book from Audible. Thanks for highlighting this story.

    • Victoria Waddle says:

      You will love this beautiful novel–it was hard to review because right from the beginning to say too much about the story would be to add spoilers. But I hope it gains all the popularity it deserves. Should be as popular as The Fault in Our Stars or Rainbow Rowell’s books.

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