Reading I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson is like having Poprocks in your brain and in your heart. This vibrant novel follows the lives of two extremely artistic twins, Noah and Jude. The earlier years, before the death of their mother, are told by Noah, while the later years of their lives are relayed to us by Jude. The two have always been Noahandjude, as described by Nelson, they are one unit. A whole, never one without the other. For lack of a better term, I'd describe them as the Ultimate Twins™. But after the idea of an elite art school is brought into the mix, things get blurred between the two. Jude becomes a popular “hornet” and gets her hands on any guy she can, while Noah begins to fall for the beautiful boy next door, Brian. Noahandjude become just Noah and Jude, and life stays that way, until three years after the death of their mother. This is where Jude takes the reins. After swearing off men and having several sculptures obliterated by her late mother, Jude seeks the help of a retired sculptor. After meeting him, and an enigmatic bad boy, everything for the twins changes.
I think the writing in this book is nothing short of gorgeous, for example;
“‘I love you.’ I say to him, only it comes out ‘Hey’
‘So damn much’ he says back. Only it comes out ‘dude.’”
To me this truly captures the love between Brian and Noah, a love they don’t really understand just yet. The way Nelson tells the story is very unique. The years before are told by Noah, in between chapters led by Jude explaining current events in their lives. This really engages the reader to try and piece together what happened during those years, and makes the reading experience much more personal. Nelson ends a chapter in Noah's portion of the book with how he would caption it as if it were a painting, because painting and drawing are his passions, An example would be:
“Portrait, self portrait; two boys jump and stay up” after Noah and Brian stand up to two bullies. Or:
“Portrait: Jude braiding boy after boy into her hair” which was how he interpreted overhearing his mother ask Jude if she “really wanted to be that girl?” I think it's a very original way of writing, and no other author could capture the life that Nelson brings to her writing. Another thing that this book brought to light is the beauty of broken things. Not in the romanization-of-mental-illness way, but the beauty of not knowing. Of being petrified about what could be, not knowing who you are just yet. Even Jude's broken statues were winsome in their own way.
Another book that revolves around shattered things is Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. This whirlwind of a story details the life of a teenager named Lea who struggles with severe anorexia. After the death of her best friend, Cassie, Lea’s mental and physical health plummet entirely. The story follows Lea denying herself recovery, hurting herself and everyone who cares for her, Fighting the war in her head, and going insane, Lea starves herself to near death, and has to really fight her way out of the mental prison she has built around herself and her eating habits.
The book is written from the very detached perspective Lea, so connecting and empathizing with the other characters in the book was a little bit challenging, but the writing is very realistic. It does feel like you're inside of the catastrophe that is Lea’s mind. A couple lines that exemplify this trait are;
“Sit up and beg, and roll over on command. Listen to the whispers that curl into your head at night, calling you ugly and fat and stupid and bitch and whore and worst of all, “a disappointment.” Puke and starve and cut and drink because you don’t want to feel any of this. Puke and starve and drink and cut because you need the anesthetic and it works. For a while. But then the anesthetic turns into poison and by then it’s too late because you are mainlining it now, straight into your soul. It is rotting you and you can’t stop.
Look in a mirror and find a ghost. Hear every heartbeat scream that everysinglething is wrong with you.
“Why?” is the wrong question.
Ask “Why not?”” And “I keep thinking that if I could just unzip my skin, step out of this body, then I would see who I really am.”
These lines let you see past her eating disorder, and her mistakes. They help you measure her in more than just her weight. Being able to understand how she thinks and feels made reading this book a very interesting experience for me, but I enjoyed it a lot.
These are the books you snatch off the shelf, stay up all night reading, and then recommend to anyone who will listen. These are the books that can change your life and perspective on life. I can't do them the justice they deserve, so I strongly recommend reading them. What book really changed your perspective? How did it do so?