Thursday, February 2, 2017

TBT Review: I'll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Every Thursday, I will pull a book review from the archives (which at this point means from my old blog) and resurrect it for Throwback Thursday. I originally read and reviewed this book in May 2015 as part of a Read Along hosted by Bookish.  The discussion questions were two blog posts then but I have consolidated them into one for this post.  
Purrfectly Bookish Review: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
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I'll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Publisher's description: 
Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

My review:
I started reading this book way back in March [2015] as part of the TBR Pile Reading Challenge at Bookish. That challenge features a read-along every other month with two sets of discussion questions - one on the 15th and one of the last day of the month. I got my first set of discussion questions in and posted them. I set the book aside to read some books and never got back to it. I have a copy from the library so last week when I saw I was running out of renewals, I decided I wanted to finish it before I had to return it. I'm so glad I did. While the first half of the book is engaging, due to the nature and enormity of the secrets being withheld, it is a bit confusing. There are so many unanswered questions. As the puzzle pieces fall into place in the second half, a rich story of family, fate and finding your true self is built to a climactic - and happy - resolution. 

Both Jude and Noah will at times endear you and annoy you. A terrible tragedy has separated these inseparable twins and it will take an odd series of remarkable events to bring them back together. Most of the supporting cast, including a ghost or two, are well developed and relatable. I felt that Oscar was overdrawn - all motorcycles, tattoos, checkered past with a James Dean swagger. While the character was a necessary part of the story, I think he could and should have been less of a caricature  That being said, the book is told from first person perspective and we “see” this characterization of Oscar from Jude’s perspective. The other author also does a pretty big disservice to another character nicknamed Zephyr. Again, I think this is the result of holding to Jude’s perspective but it would have been nice to see Zephyr redeemed. 

I really like the writing style - once I got used to it. Noah, in particular, writes in colors and art. His descriptions of everyday life are as if he were describing everything as artwork. He says he can see people’s souls - his mother’s is a massive sunflower so big there is hardly room for her organs. Most of his inner dialog is this descriptive and every scene in his life includes a note on how he would paint it: (Self-Portrait: Throwing Armfuls of Air into the Air). I would recommend this to anyone who likes art or is an artist and who enjoys young adult fiction. While there are sexual situations, nothing is graphic. For the average teenaged reader, I would recommend grade 9 and up. I would let my advanced 12 year old son read it but he would not like it due to smoochy stuff. (Yay! So happy about that. How long do I have?).  

First Discussion Questions

1) How do you feel about the narration style? Was Noah's artistic voice hard to get used to? What about Jude's?

It took me a couple of Noah's references to seeing people's auras or some such to get that this was his artistic voice. And then Jude with her ghosts. I like it though now that I'm into the book more.

2) Between the two siblings/story lines, which one is you favorite?

Noah's actually. But at this point in the book it may because I'm still a bit bitter toward Jude about art school (not yet knowing the story there, of course, but still).

3) What are you feeling regarding the family dynamics: We have twins, a mom and dad, and a deceased grandmother. Noah believes his dad favors his sister and his mother favors him. Noah seems to favor his mom.

I suspect that this dynamic is a bit true in all families - merely magnified in this family due to the artistic minds, deaths in the family, etc.

4) All siblings have a bit of sibling rivalry between them? What sort of things did you and your siblings compete about? What is as serious and Jude and Noah or more playful competition?

My one sibling is ten years older than me and we are SO different. I don't recall a rivalry, but as the overachiever younger child, I can't speak for my sister. She may have felt it more than me. I was the straight A student, she was the one who was good with her hands (mechanical stuff, etc.). I could see where she might resent my grades or something. But I never sensed it in our relationship. I think the big age gap makes our relationship different than most siblings though.

5) Thus far, what has been one of your favorite scenes from the novel?

When Jude is spying on Guillermo sculpting. The author does a remarkable job of telling the intimacy of both Guillermo lost in his work and Jude lost in watching him.

Second Discussion Questions

1) Did this novel pan out as you had expected? Are you a fan of the happily ever after or would you have preferred something different?  

I don’t think I went in with an expectation of how it would pan out but I was happy with the ending. I think the happy ending in this case was realistic. I don’t think I would have liked a bitter. tragic or sad ending. There was enough tragedy in the middle! Noah and Jude needed to find peace.

2) Now that you have finished I'll Give You the Sun, do you think it was worth the hype? 

Not having seen any of the hype before I learned about the book on this book challenge, I can’t really answer this question. But it is a good book, very well written, well thought out. 

3) Will you be reading more from Jandy Nelson? 

Yes. I’d like to read The Sky is Everywhere. 

4) While Noah and Jude are our main characters, we meet a nice variety of secondary characters? Out of this bunch, who is your favorite? 

Hmmm - I liked Dad and wish we could have learned more about him. Grandma Sweetwine is hilarious. And I actually liked Guillermo. I don’t think I have a favorite though. 

5) Did Jandy's narration decision (two story lines and two different times in these characters lives) add more to your reading experience or did it make it more difficult for you to get into the story? 

It took me a few perspective/time flips to get into the pacing and rhythm of the story, but I think it was ultimately a brilliant way to tell this story. 

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