You haven’t read I’ll Give You the Sun yet?! Allow me to give you some friendly advice: you should definitely read this book ASAP. Jandy Nelson’s award-winning novel tells the story of Noah and Jude, 13-year-old twins and best friends who used to be practically inseparable. Artistic Noah is quiet and shy, but it never seemed to matter because surfer girl Jude is charismatic enough for the both of them. But three years later, a tragedy has ripped the family apart and Noah and Jude are barely speaking, separated by both their secrets and their secret longings.
Still not convinced to drop whatever you’re doing and start reading? Here are 5 reasons you should stop everything and pick up I’ll Give You the Sun.
Sibling Rivalry (Sort of)
I’ll Give You the Sun is told from the perspectives of both siblings, fraternal twins Jude and Noah. They used to be close—sure, Noah kept his crush on the boy next door a secret, and Jude may have pushed the envelope with her bright red lipstick and cliff-diving, but they were still best friends. They divided the world up between them, exchanging the sun and the stars and the flowers and the trees. But instead of finding solace with one another when their family faces tragedy, the gap between Noah and Jude only widens. Soon, they can barely remember how to talk to each other. And boy, does Nelson know how to write siblings! She understands that even the most estranged of them have inside jokes and shared memories, and even the closest have hidden resentments and deeply held regrets.
Noah and Jude are both artists, and as a reader, you get to be by their sides while they both create and tear down their work, each struggling to discover what they want to express and how to express it. Noah sees the world in colors, envisioning every moment of his life as the work of art it could become if only he could draw it. Meanwhile, Jude thinks her art is doomed—everything she tries to create seems destined to break, perhaps due to the intervention of a restless family spirit. In fact, the entire world feels fragile to her, as though disease and destruction could befall her and the people she loves at any moment. It’s only when she begins working with a talented but tortured local sculptor that she has a chance of creating something unbreakable.
Time Travel (Okay, not exactly. But kind of.)
As if telling the story from two different perspectives wasn’t enough, Nelson also sets each of the narratives in a different time period: Noah’s when the twins are thirteen, and Jude’s when they’re sixteen. Noah’s chapters take place when the twins are still close and their family is still (more or less) intact, whereas Jude’s chapters are set long after their rift is in place. Noah is devastated by his failure to get into the art school of his dreams, and Jude is bewildered by her own acceptance. Noah still longs for Brian, the boy next door, while Jude is doing her very best not to fall for the irresistible boy who has come into her life. What neither twin understands is that each of them only knows half the story. It’s only by putting their stories together that the truth can be revealed, and their wounds healed.
The Sky is Everywhere
Maybe it’s strange to recommend one book by talking about another, but bear with me here. The Sky is Everywhere was Nelson’s debut novel, and it is just so beautiful! Like I’ll Give You the Sun, it deals with siblings and loss and love, but is a very different story and worth reading all on its own. Seventeen-year-old Lennie is struggling to recover following the sudden death of her charismatic big sister, Bailey. Everything is different now, from her relationship with her best friend to her friendship with the fiancé Bailey left behind, to the questions she has for the mother who abandoned her as an infant. And then there’s that seemingly perfect boy she can’t take her eyes off of, Joey Fontaine. Read I’ll Give You the Sun knowing you can follow it up with the magnificence of The Sky is Everywhere—trust me, you’ll want to.
At the end of the day, I’ll Give You the Sun is a love story. But I’m not just talking about romantic love—though there’s plenty of that, and yes, you’ll be rooting for Noah and Jude to end up with the boys they love. But at its heart, this is the story about the love between two siblings, about the love that exists within a family, that endures no matter what, love even when you think you hate each other. And what could be more compelling than something that powerful?