The Book Owl: Jandy Nelson spotlights teen drama in ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’

In consideration of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would indulge in a young adult romance I have been chomping at the bits to read.

“I’ll Give You the Sun” is told from the dual perspectives of twins Noah and Jude at different times in their lives. Noah’s narrative takes place when the two are 13 and focuses on his struggles living in his sister’s shadow at home, social isolation, burgeoning sexuality and desire to attend a prestigious California art school.

Jude’s story takes place three years later when the two are 16 and she is no longer the fearless, vivacious surfer girl loved by all, but now a superstitious recluse attending the very art school her brother applied to (without him) and racked with guilt over her role in their mother’s death.

But that’s not to say that the story was all gloom and doom. If anything, “I’ll Give You the Sun” was a romantic dramedy at its finest, with equal parts grin-inducing romance, fun dialogue and tragedy.

This novel was beautifully and succinctly written. Nelson wove together an intricately detailed story riddled with poetic metaphor in her incredibly honest portrayal of these complex, deeply flawed twins.

The nonlinear storytelling was fluid and gave us such a vivid outsider’s perspective to watch the twins deal with their demons and mend their relationship. I had zero trouble distinguishing the twins’ voices and I felt like I got a pretty great handle on their personalities and motivations early on without being bogged down with convenient plot devices, which is always a welcome surprise.

While I enjoyed Noah’s narrative more than Jude’s at times (largely because her love interest was disappointingly cliche), they both worked wonderfully as narrators.

I will say that the writing style could be irritating. While polished, the dreamy, metaphoric writing style had a bad habit of lessening the atmosphere of more intense scenes when I had to decode what was and wasn’t real.

Courtesy disclaimer: there is a lot of sex, drinking and swearing throughout the story, essentially everything one would expect from real life high schoolers without filter.

Save for a few spoiler-filled issues I had with it, “I’ll Give You the Sun” was an ambitious, gorgeously executed novel.

Verdict: 3.5/5 stars