Telepathic twins. An angry ghost who's in love with a famous artist. A grandmother who gives weird advice from beyond the grave. I'll Give You the Sun is packed with such a wide array of eccentrics that it's kinda hard to know where to start.
Did we mention time travel? For us, not the characters—from chapter to chapter, we zoom back and forth in time between the narratives of Noah (at age 13) and Jude (three-ish years later). The brother-and-sister duo used to be joined at the hip, but now they're barely speaking to each other…or to anyone. What happened, you ask? Well, both siblings went through total romantic apocalypse the very same day that their mother lost control of her car and drove off a cliff. Thank Shmoopness not all puberty's quite that extreme.
Even so. That's just for starters.
Jude and Noah's story is about grief, betrayal, and just plain growing up (which is extra hard, what with all the grief and betrayal). It's sad as heck and packed with more drama than your favorite soap opera. We're talking passionate affairs, near-death experiences, horrible secrets, and a James Dean-lookalike. Yes, of course he rides a motorcycle.
Author Jandy Nelson's second YA novel, I'll Give You the Sun (2014) is a NYT bestseller that won a ton of fancy literary awards and got featured in Teen Vogue. If you're keeping track at home, that makes it pretty, popular, and smart—the high school trifecta. We're nominating it for homecoming queen. You know, the book version.
Aliens, demons, spirits—in the movies, humans get possessed by all sorts of cool stuff. In real life, a similar (and slightly less awesome) form of possession can happen when we're traumatized or depressed. Imagine your body is taken over by a shadow self from an alternate dimension. You're transformed, against your will, into a very sad and boring version of yourself, and now you're doomed to haunt your old life.
Not a pretty picture.
Two years after their mother's sudden death, this is exactly what Jude and Noah Sweetwine are going through. Their unhappiness has changed their personalities so much that they're unrecognizable to themselves, each other, and just about everyone else. Their new imposter selves have given up friends and hobbies. They've also given up their artistic pursuits.
Worst of all, they've gotten bad haircuts.
Mr. Sweetwine, the twins' dear old dad—yep, he's been "possessed" too—probably says it best when he tells Jude, "I think you can sort of slip out of your life and it can be hard to find a way back in" (8.134). For him, the way back in is to reconnect with his kids. Noah and Jude find solace in romantic partners, art and, eventually, each other.
Whether you're dealing with something super tough or just not feeling like yourself, there may be times in life when you feel like an alien observing your own existence, or at least a little lost. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to find your way back.
And whatever you do, do not cut your hair.
The Author's Website
It's a good 'un. Check it out.
And there's more: The author thoughtfully compiled images of some of the art that's mentioned in the book.
I'll Give You the Sun
The movie will happen…someday. For now it's officially "under development." At least it's official.
A Q&A with the Author
Nelson talks shop, including her quirky writing habits. (Did we mention the earplugs?)
The NYT Book Review
She likes it. She really likes it.
A Chat with the School Library Journal
Another interview with the author.
The Author in Conversation
Jandy Nelson has a long conversation with fellow author Gayle Forman.
Here's an excerpt from the audiobook.
Meet the Author
Hey, it's Jandy Nelson.
Jandy Nelson thinks she won the "book cover lottery." Do you agree?