A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (The Sky Is Everywhere) is a brilliant, emotional, complex novel told in two voices, and it won the 2015 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults. In alternating chapters, often in a stream-of-consciousness style, we hear the voice of artistic Noah at 13 and that of his daredevil twin sister, Jude, at 16. The novel includes three love stories, awakening sexuality, devotion to art, a tragic death, betrayal, remorse, and forgiveness. There's some swearing and name calling (including "f--k," "holy s--t," and "homos"), teen drinking, bullying, and a rape. The two narratives collide in artful, touching, and revelatory ways.
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What's the story?
Noah and Jude were inseparable twins in eighth grade, but three years later they're barely civil to each other. A tragedy has torn them apart. Both are budding artists, encouraged by their mother, who wants them both to go to the prestigious California School of the Arts. Only Jude is accepted, but she has trouble expressing herself artistically -- a problem she attributes to supernatural forces. Noah meets Brian, the new boy next door, and the attraction is intense and instant, but self-conscious Noah isn't sure if the feeling is truly reciprocated. Struggling with her art, Jude seeks guidance from a famed sculptor, whose James Dean-ish protégé, Oscar, can't keep his eyes or camera off her. But there are complications and family secrets that keep the twins from pursuing love or their friendship with each other. Through it all the ghost of a dead grandmother constantly visits Jude with advice. The twins' stories interweave as the drama unfolds and they go back and forth from age 13 to 16.
Is it any good?
I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is a compelling novel of twin siblings' fractured lives. There's heartbreak, wisdom, and joy -- and the writing often sings. Jude and Noah's passages of reflection are written in a stream-of-consciousness style that lets readers feel as if they know and understand them. Author Jandy Nelson is particularly drawn to characters with misfit, superstitious families, and fans of her debut novel, The Sky Is Everywhere, will be awestruck once again at her ability to capture the transformative power of grief, loss, and art (music for Lenny in Sky and the visual arts for Noah and Jude in Sun). The author so vividly describes the artistic process that readers will feel the sand and stone in their hands as Jude sculpts or the charcoal as Noah sketches. Their art is what binds them but what also tears them apart.
As with Lenny and Joe in her first book, Nelson spends a good bit of the book tracing Noah and Jude's experiences with first love. Both of them have messy but rapturous love stories with guys who aren't perfect but might be exactly what the twins need -- if their own insecurities don't get in the way. Nelson's books aren't easy, lazy reads. They demand your attention with their lyrical writing and shifts in time. Some young readers may even be confused at times, as the sequences jump between the past and the present. Yet Jude and Noah are so alive, you really care about what happens to them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bullying and harassment in response to a person's sexual orientation or due to racial profiling or religious/ethnic prejudice. What can you do if you witness bullying at your school or in your community?
How have media attitudes and portrayals of what constitutes a family changed in recent years?
If you had an important secret, is there someone you could trust to tell it to?
- Author: Jandy Nelson
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial
- Publication date: September 16, 2014
- Number of pages: 371
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: August 29, 2020
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