The cute, bright cover of Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun is definitely was drew me into picking up the book, as well as, upon flicking through its pages, the artsy design of some of the pages. The short and sweet blurb mentions a tragedy, which is enough to intrigue anyone into giving the book a chance.
However, I quickly became bored after starting the book because I just couldn’t become interested enough to be invested in the narrative. This was not helped by the dual narrative, switching between the characters of Jude and Noah. I usually enjoy books written in such a way because it allows for a wider interpretation of events, but in this case I found it confusing and a little awkward, especially given that chapters were so long. I suppose this could show the closeness of the two characters, given that they are twins, but it did mean that, at points, I was unsure who was actually speaking. The length of chapters also meant that it was difficult to find a convenient point to stop reading, meaning that it was hard to read on short car journeys or when I just had five minutes to spare, although I suppose that the ability to dip in and out might not be so vital for younger readers. As a result of this, I found that finishing the book became more of a chore, rather than something I was enjoying.
In terms of the writing style and register, it is clear that Jandy Nelson has tried to keep I’ll Give You The Sun informal and colloquial as a way of speaking to the young adults that she is writing for. In theory, this is a great idea, and could be humorous and relatable for the reader. However, in my opinion, this isn’t always executed effectively, with some phrases seeming a little overworked and forced. Of course, I understand that I would not be the target audience of the book, but I’m sure that even the 15 year old me would have felt the same.
Having said all of this, and aside from the confusion of the dual narrative, I did find the characters quite charming, and I especially liked the character of Jude, given her superstitious tendencies, such as purposely uncovering all mirrors, which could be quite amusing. However, Noah’s difficulty ‘fitting in’ with everyone else makes him likeable, too, and the way that he refers to real life events with names of paintings is actually quite endearing as we can see that this is not necessarily normal behaviour for a boy his age.
Additionally, the fact that this story features a gay, teenage, love story is definitely a positive. Nelson portrays this relationship very well, treating it as something completely normal and acceptable, encouraging her young audience to pursue whatever feels right for them. I also loved the short quotes from the twins’ grandmother, showing snippets of wisdom, or perhaps simply superstition, such as ‘To reverse destiny, stand in a field with a knife pointed in the direction of the wind.’In fact, I did smile to myself every time I stumbled upon one of these quotes and they are one of the main reasons that I continued to read.
I think it would be difficult for me to say whether or not I recommend this book, but I would not say that it is a must-read. Perhaps for young teenagers, it would fulfill all of their expectations for a book, but I think that for me, it had a little bit of an identity crisis: colloquial language mixed with a (fairly) complex narrative style. The only advice that I could give would be to read this book and decide for yourself, you may be able to overlook some of the elements that irritated me.