Love does as it undoes. It goes after, with equal tenacity: joy and heartbreak.
There's something about looking at a beautiful painting or sculpture and noticing the fine details, the artistry, the imagination and the mystery that surrounds it. Sometimes you see something so beautiful that you want to cry, or possess it, or to be the one who created it. Jandy Nelson's "I'll Give You the Sun" is equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking. This YA coming-of-age novel shows how art transforms the characters and is itself a work of art.
It's been awhile since I've been so moved by a YA novel. Nelson's gift is her lyrical writing which includes elements of magic and supernatural, but also gives heavy doses of reality. She also nails what blossoming love feels like and looks like in two very smart protagonists. The narrators in the alternating (and long but lovable) chapters are Jude and Noah, twins who are so close that they almost smother each other in their quest to curry favor from their artistic mother. Each of them tries to forge their own paths, but life rarely plays fair. After tragedy strikes their family and truths, secrets and lies mount, they compete with each other in dangerous ways that drive them apart.
I loved every second of reading this book because of the intricacy of the story line - how the characters intersect and bisect each other's lives. The idea of twins who can sense each other's pain hurting each other purposely, but ending up only hurting themselves was captivating as was the whimsy of the grandmother's character and the unforgiving mother who also needed to forgive herself.
On top of the brilliance of Noah and Jude and their original, artistic voices that realize things about love and life that most people never can quite get, the supporting characters all add to rather than detract from the story. Noah's "split-apart," Brian and his denial of his sexual orientation hurts to read. He and Noah are so in love, but it's not okay to be who they are in a world of "surftards" and dads who just want their sons to be normal. And Jude's transformation from bad ass to recluse to emerging bad ass and truth sayer was not just believable but touching. She falls for her destiny and doesn't realize it just like she doesn't realize her crazy haired, stone sculptor, mentor is actually more closely tied to her life.
All artistic elements of this book work harmoniously to create a gorgeous inner and outer work of art YA novel that is so original and fresh that it feels like a pop of summer sunshine to read, but the depth of it and the emotional charge that comes form reading it makes me want to meet Jandy Nelson and tell her I am in awe of her passion and talent as a writer.
Looking for a coming of age love story this summer? Read "I'll Give You the Sun" and prepare to be amazed.