Wednesday, February 4, 2015
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
I'll Give You the Sun just won the 2015 Printz Award. So convenient since I'd just read it the week before and it was my favorite YA of the year. The Printz Award has never gone to my favorite YA of the year, so it was all very exciting.
This was really beautiful. The framing device worked perfectly, the characters were relatable, and even when they did some pretty terrible, I cared about them and wanted everything to work out in the end. I actually ruined it for myself by flipping around and reading things out of order to find out what happened. Don't do that! It all comes together quite nicely if you let it.
Noah tells the story from when they are 13-14. Jude tells the story when they are 16, and the sections alternate. Each section lets us build up more pieces of the puzzle and understand what really happened to these characters. At 13, Noah is an artist and a misfit. He's constantly painting, both in his head and on canvas. He's quiet and awkward and falling in love with a boy, Brian. What he wants more than anything is to get into art school for high school, and get away from all the horribly normal people who don't understand him. The only ones who understand him are his mother, who's fiercely supportive of his art dream, and Brian.
Jude is brave and bold and independent. She makes amazing sand sculptors she doesn't show to anyone and makes all her own clothes. She surfs and dives off cliffs. She has lots of friends and radiates self-confidence. She is also applying to the art school, but constantly feels left out of Noah and her mother's art world. She begins to hang out with an older crowd, wear higher heels and shorter skirts, prompting her mother to ask her if she wants to be "that girl."
Three years later finds Jude and Noah changed. Noah didn't get into the art school. He goes to the regular high school where he joined the track team, never paints, and is shockingly normal. Jude is in art school, only wears over sized clothes, has no friends and lives by her grandmother's bible of cures and tricks.
What happened to these two? How are they so dramatically changed? How did two people so close go to not even speaking? What has happened to their family?
I loved every single character in this book. I loved Noah, and his desperation to get away from the normals and into a world where he felt like he belonged. I loved him even when he did things that hurt other people, because I understood why he was doing them even if they weren't good choices. I loved Jude, with her boy boycott and her belief that ghosts were talking to her and she made more and more sense as her past is revealed. She also did some pretty awful things to other people, but again, I understood.
I loved Oscar, the boy Jude meets when she goes to learn how to sculpt out of stone. Oscar was not just a random supporting love interest for Jude. He had his own complex background and the way he acted, which was not always perfect, made sense for him. He was lovely, but was not the acting male equivalent of the manic pixie dream girl. He did not swoop in a fix everything for Jude, even if some times he did show up at just the right moment.
I loved Guillermo, the sculpture Jude goes to learn from, who is more connected to her life than she has any idea, who is so filled with pain of love lost he creates his lost love over and over again in his sculptures.
I don't want to reveal to much, because part of the joy of the book is how it all unfolds (which I ruined for myself). It's about overcoming grief, finding love, forgiving yourself and others, and being able to be the self you want to be.
It was just a wonderful book, beautifully crafted and beautifully written. It well deserves the Printz Award.