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I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing. And heartbreaking. And beautiful.

I have been reading a lot of very epic science fiction over the last couple of weeks, and had become used to worlds in which horrible death, tragedy, and betrayal were just another plot device to move along the action of the story, so it was refreshing to dive into this book, and remember that books can be so real, and so hauntingly, achingly intense without any dismemberment or epic space battles.

Jude and Noah Sweetwine are twins, but these previously inseparable two, who Noah once thought shared the same soul (a beautiful tree with leaves of fire), have been separated from each other. This separation manifests quite literally in the book, as the dual narration from each of their points of view begins separated by a gulf of three years, with Noah narrating their life BEFORE, and Jude narrating their life AFTER.

Whatever happened, whatever tragic event unwound their tangled up lives into the single-stranded isolation they suffer in the later narration, has not yet happened when Noah begins. He and Jude are still inseparable, although that is already beginning to change. It is summer, and Noah is falling in love — a deep, soul-consuming love, with the new boy next door. The Jude of this era is fearless. She jumps off huge cliffs into the sea, surfs as well as any of the surftards Noah hates so much, and is blossoming into a beautiful, popular girl, making Noah feel like even more of an outcast as he paints the world in his head for his invisible museum.

Three years later, in the world Jude narrates, she, not Noah, is the one who has gotten into the art magnet high school, but she is practically unrecognizable from the flamboyant, fearless girl of three years ago. Jude is scared of everything from the inevitability of falling bricks to rare diseases, and especially of the bad luck that seems to follow her everywhere, which she wards off by every means possible, including lucky sand dollars, onions in her pockets, and a total boycott on boys. Noah, meanwhile, has learned to blend with the surftards, has stopped painting, in fact, has become almost unrecognizable, and completely remote. He will hardly even look at Jude. Something huge and terrible has come between them, swirling through their lives and leaving chaos in its wake.

As Noah and Jude’s stories began to coalesce and come together, my heart just broke more and more, bits and pieces falling out onto the pages as I read. Every tiny detail of this book hits hard, and the imagery is indescribably beautiful. I’ll Give You The Sun is easily one of my favorite books of the year.

If you like The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, or Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, try this on for size. I think it just might fit.

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