There are few pieces of young adult literature that truly take my breath away. Often times I find that as a twenty-year-old reading young adult novels, many of the themes and messages are so specifically geared toward children between the ages of 11 and 16 that I feel a certain detachment with the story and its characters. While I can still appreciate the novel as a good work of young adult literature it is a real accomplishment when I come across a YA book that I feel can hold its own with the great works of adult literature I have read.
I’ll Give you the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, is one of those rare finds, which really stood apart as a great piece of literature for people of any age. Following the story of a pair of fraternal twins, one boy and one girl, the book focuses on themes such as creativity, discovery, identity, guilt, grief, sexuality, individuality, and of course, love.
The true beauty of I’ll Give You the Sun is in the authenticity of the characters, which Nelson creates. Noah and Jude are so eccentric and unique; their personalities pull the reader into their stories and allow deep connections to be formed with them as characters.
Noah’s story focuses on his dealing with the fact that he is gay and what that means for his life and his identity. Nelson creates such a beautiful story of his homosexual relationship with his neighbor, a quirky kid who collects meteorites for fun. Falling in line with other current YA authors, Jandy Nelson includes this homosexual romance and does a superb job of making it relatable to readers of any sexual orientation.
In the same way, Nelson characterizes Jude in such a relatable way. It is so common to see the portrayal of teen angst and rebellion in YA literature. However, Jude’s story is filled with so many real flaws and specific characteristics such as her tendency to see ghosts and interact with them. There is realness to these kinds of original descriptions that make seemingly cliché story lives, such as teen romance and loss, more dimensional.
The relationship between siblings is a very interesting theme in the novel as well. I have read several novels that speak on the relationship between sisters or between brothers, however, Nelson creates and interesting dynamic in presenting a pair of fraternal twins, one being female and the other being male. In the same way, Nelson also introduces an interesting family dynamic overall. The inclusion of the twins’ parents is unusual in YA literature, which tends to remove the parents from the story entirely. The novel also offers another adult with a significant role in the sculptor who becomes a role model for Jude.
I’ll Give You the Sun is not only an excellent book that highlights and explains many teen struggles and experiences but also an awesome book for readers of any age who simply want to indulge in the lives of authentic characters and empathize with the emotions they encounter throughout the coming of age story.
* If you particularly loved John Green’s, The Fault in Our Stars, for its fresh take on the “sick story” I would highly recommend this book because it features the same surprising truthfulness and relatability.