I’ll Give You The Sun Is One Of The Best Teens Reads of 2014

I'll Give You the SunJandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun is quit easily one of my favorite books of 2014.  I enjoy nonlinear storytelling.  This book had a similar feel to We Were Liars and The First Part Last.  Jude and Noah are twins.  They are both have artistic talent. Their mother celebrates Noah’s ability more, causing a rift between the two and making the twins fight for their mother’s attention.  Both siblings are narrators.  Noah’s voice explains the past while Jude is telling the story of the present.    They are both applying  to get into a prestigious art high school.  Noah is the dreamy painter who paints in his head as he has different experiences.  Jude is more of a risk taker.  She cliff dives, surfs and makes secret flying women sand sculptures.  Noah’s life changes when neighbor, Brian comes home for the summer.  Brian is a kindred spirit and the two become great friends which sends Noah on a journey that is both painful and transformative.  Noah is struggling with the realization that he is gay.  Noah starts eavesdropping on art classes through the window.  There he meets Oscar, a model for a drawing class.  Oscar will also cross paths with Jude at a very different time in his life.  Something happens to their mother, and Noah does not end up in the art school like everyone hoped.  He and Jude switch personalities. The why isn’t clear until the final chapters.   They do things to hurt each other because they are jealous and misunderstand each other.   Both Noah and Jude have experiences with an eccentric artist named Guillermo who also has ties to Oscar.  This story weaves together beautifully.  I took my time reading this one.  The imagery of the art and the painful creation of the pieces pulled me in.  Nelson develops each character with rich detail.  The ending was very satisfying.  Reading the story in different time frames made for a interesting journey.  I did not see the end coming.  Other readers I know did.  However, I chose to ride the wave of Nelson’s brilliant storytelling and enjoyed each moment.

Ideas for discussing with teens:

Discuss Noah’s dad’s way of saying, “act tough and you are tough.”

Discuss the moment where the moon faced boy winks at Noah.

Discuss this passage, “I went around from painting to painting asking each to eat me and they did.  How my skin fit the whole time, didn’t once bunch up at my ankles or squeeze my head into a pin.” pg. 21

Discuss why Jude wants to be invisible.

Discuss how Jude asks Noah to share mom.

Who did you think Jude is talking about when she wants to know if M loves her?

Discuss when Noah says, “I’m thinking the reason I’ve been so quiet all these years is only because Brian wasn’t around yet for me to tell everything to.” pg. 103

Discuss when Noah says, “Reality is crushing.  The world is wrong sized shoe.  How can anyone stand it?”  pg. 114

Discuss how Noah changes during his summer and what that does to his relationship with Jude.

Discuss how what happens to Noah after Brian goes into the closet with Jude.

How has Noah changed since he started high school?  How does Jude feel about that?  Talk about “death of the spirit.”

Why do you think Jude became so superstitious?

Discuss the line, “he’s the kind of man who walks ina  room and the walls fall down.”

Discuss when Oscar says to Guillermo, “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”  And Guillermo answers, “you misunderstand, I believe in everything.” pg 193

Discuss how Guillermo and Jude can be each others meadows.

Discuss how meeting your soul mate is like a house. pg. 221

Discuss how Noah’s relationship with Brian changes throughout the story.