Review: “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson
March 16, 2016
I’m a relatively materialistic person, I’ll be the first to say it. I love to judge books by their covers. I mean, why would I not use something that the publishing industry spends millions of dollars on to decide about a book? With that in mind, I jumped into “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson.
However, as soon as I read the first few chapters of the novel, I realized that what shined wasn’t just the beautifully colored stripes that decorate the cover, but instead the metaphorical writing, and the wonderfully incorporated elements of magical realism. The novel stars fraternal twins Noah and Jude, each responsible for half of the story; Noah has “the early years,” before their mother’s death, and Jude has the later years.
As far as each of the twins telling half of the story goes, I thought that Nelson did a wonderful job differentiating between the two perspectives; Noah is clearly more sensitive and conciliatory, while Jude is harder hearted and “tough.” Each of the characters in the story are amazingly real; while not all of us can relate to trying to fit into art school, or hiding one’s sexuality, the twins’ problems are stark and clear. Their issues also emanate from the need to depend on a trusted family member, something that everyone can understand.
As always, when a novel is written from different points of view with separate timelines, the reader expects a coming together of sorts, a moment in which all of the little threads that have been spun come together and form one cohesive image. With “I’ll Give You the Sun,” everything fits together well, and Nelson’s beautiful writing really shines during the poignant moments.
I have previously had mixed experiences with magical realism (see: “Everybody Sees the Ants” by A.S. King and “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness,) but this novel really restores my faith in writers’ ability to toe the line between reality and fantasy. The magical realism in this novel mostly consists of Jude’s connection with her grandmother, who was heavily superstitious, and her ensuing belief that her mother’s ghost is haunting her. The book is chock-full of funny little sayings passed down from the twins’ grandmother, often involving onions as some sort as protection.
The novel itself is relatively difficult to describe: I laughed, I (almost) cried, and above all, I was moved. Nelson displays an incredible ability to touch readers, and her sophomore novel really cements her reputation as a heartwarming writer.