I wasn't supposed to buy books anymore. I wasn't supposed to be browsing for new ones. Then serendipity happened, just when I needed inspiration the most. Just look at the cover. The words. The instant feels.
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson tells the story of a pair of highly artistic twins, Jude and Noah, and how they cope with the loss of their mother. The narration alternates between 13-year-old Noah and 16-year-old Jude. When Noah begins his story, they are NoahandJude, but when Jude starts hers, they are Jude without Noah/Noah without Jude. As their stories unravel, they have to find their way back to become Noah and Jude.
Noah is a painter, and when he doesn't paint or sketch, he paints in his head, and he calls his gallery the Invisible Museum. The way he sees things, the way both reality and imagination happen all at once, is both jarring and beautiful at the same time.
I start to run, start to turn into air, the blue careening off the sky, careening after me, as I sink into green, shades and shades of it, blending and spinning into yellow, freaking yellow, then head-on colliding into the punk-hair purple of lupine: everywhere.
The words. The imagery. The feels. Also:
Because I can see people's souls sometimes when I draw them, I know the following: Mom has a massive sunflower for a soul so big there's hardly any room in her for organs. Jude and me have one soul between us that we have to share: a tree with its leaves on fire. And Dad has a plate of maggots for his.
Noah breaks his narration to name a painting in his Invisible Museum to describe what's happening to him and around him. For instance,
(SELF-PORTRAIT: The Boy Hiding Inside the Boy Hiding Inside the Boy)
Jude, on the other hand, is boycotting boys and has withdrawn into herself, and has conversations with the ghost of her grandmother. The ghost of her mother is angry with her for reasons revealed later in the book. Jude also carries around her grandmother's bible of superstitions and wisdom, and breaks her narration to mention passages from that bible.
Carrying a burnt candle stub will extinguish feelings of love
should they arise
(Front left pocket.)
Soak a mirror in vinegar to deflect unwanted attention
To change the leanings of the heart, wear a wasp nest on the head
(Not this desperate. Yet.)
Jude is also a sculptor, but where during Noah's narration she hides her talent, during her narration, she holds herself back out of guilt. That same guilt is the force driving her to sculpt in stone. To seek forgiveness.
Jude and Noah are orbited by secondary characters whose fates are intertwined with them, including Jude's love interest Oscar and Noah's love interest Brian. Even the tormented sculptor who becomes Jude's mentor. While Jude's story revolves around her courtship with Oscar--hence making me favor Noah's story line--it is obvious that their love story is secondary; the core is still NoahandJude. People who gravitate toward romantic relationships may (or may not) be disappointed because the romantic relationships in this book are not as developed as the push and pull between the twins.
I'll Give You the Sun is all about the twins.
That said, I am worried about the contents of this book. Sex at the age of 13, a teenager who has a history of alcohol and drug abuse, and drunken parties at 16. This is a highly acclaimed novel, circulated and beloved by teenagers. As a pseudo-parent, this worries me. This worries me a lot.
Oh yeah. By the way. Malaysia gets mentioned a couple of times (Malaysian ants--I don't even know what those are). It's cool to have your country mentioned.
This book offers beautiful, evocative prose that sings to the visual artist in me. It is inspirational, almost at the level of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
I would have loved it more if Noah gets to tell his own ending, but seeing that his narration occurs at age 13 and the story concludes at age 16, I can understand the limitation. I love it when a novel ends tidily, but this one is a bit too tidy.
Overall, the prose is inspirational, and the story is beautiful. A highly recommended read. I give it a 7/10.