Novel Tells Heartbreaking Coming of Age Story

Novel Tells Heartbreaking Coming of Age Story

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is a breathtaking coming of age story told by a pair of artistic twins who share similar stories but can’t find a way to piece them together. Not only does the novel provoke much thought and emotion and is full of deep revelations, but also it is a highly enjoyable read with shocking plot twists and an amazing storyline.

The story is told through the narration of two siblings, alternating between Noah, the passionate artist who analyzes the world as a piece of art, and Jude, Noah’s fearlessly audacious twin sister who takes everything as a challenge. Noah narrates their lives before age 14 and Jude narrates after they both turn 16. With this delicate balance, Nelson crafts each chapter carefully so that the story as a whole flows in a coherent manner, yet also allows for dramatic cliffhangers when the narration is passed from sibling to sibling. The stories in both time lines are equally interesting, and I found myself reading chronologically despite the urge to skip ahead and answer the questions brought up from the previous chapter. Plot-wise, the novel only got better, and as the storyline progressed, the events unfolding in the next chapter almost completely overshadowed the previous cliffhanger. The story starts off slowly, but after both siblings get their chance at narrating, the story begins to accelerate faster than imaginable, and I found myself desperately chasing after a plot that had gone off the page.

However, what makes I’ll Give You the Sun absolutely unforgettable is not the plot but Nelson’s artistic writing style that keeps the story timeless and teetering off the edge. Within the first few chapters, I had already  became inexplicably attached to the characters, and their emotions and thoughts were more realistic and genuine than any other character I had ever experienced as a reader. Like her first novel, The Sky is Everywhere, Nelson gives each narrator a special memorabilia that is updated along with the plotline. For example, as a virtuoso, Noah constantly immerses himself in art and even tunes out his surroundings to envision artwork in his overimaginitive head. In the first chapter, when Noah’s mother brings up the idea of art school, Nelson pairs Noah’s excitement with the imagined artwork: Self-Portrait: A Window Flies Open in My Chest. These notes add to the siblings’ personalities and helps the reader better understand what and how they think as they are presented with moral issues and everyday difficulties.

“When I draw… I’m going to make my skin see-through and what you’ll see is that all the animals in the zoo of me have broken out of their cages.”

I’ll Give You the Sun touches on emotions across many delicate subjects. Noah, being a member of the LGBT+ community as a homosexual male, faces the struggle of coming out to his parents and having constant fear of being cast in the friend-zone by those he loves. Both siblings grow up with the endless guilt of “causing” their mother’s death, and Noah is the epitome of a child struggling to please his demanding parents. Years later, when Jude begins narrating, it becomes obvious how much of a struggle she goes through to piece back her broken family, and Nelson amplifies these emotions to the point where I felt like crying with the characters.

“This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders.”

Although the novel is deeply impactful and emotional, it also has that level of humour that keeps the story from spiraling too out of hand. Within the darkly poignant characters there is also this chunky layer of awkwardness, which adds to the relatability of the story. Although both Noah and Jude are special, whether because of their artistic pursuits or their way of thinking, it is comical to see them struggling with everyday social situations as simple as greeting a friend.

“I’m having a hand problem. How come everyone else seems to know what to do with them? Pockets, I remember with relief, pockets, I love pockets!”

As a personal opinion, I enjoyed reading I’ll Give You the Sun more than Nelson’s debut novel The Sky is Everywhere, but I highly recommend reading both novels, regardless of what genre you enjoy.