Book Review – ‘I’ll Give You the Sun’ by Jandy Nelson

Art, identity, and secrets all mix into this masterful contemporary.

I'll Give You The Sun Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT,

No. of pages: 371

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“We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.”

At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world.

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This was a surprise read for me. I had heard great things and noticed a lot of 5 star reviews but I kept away from all of that as much as I could. All I knew about ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ was that the main protagonists were fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, where the male grapples with his identity.

I think the biggest surprise for me was the interconnectedness of this novel. Just about every point, seemingly irrelevant or not, has meaning. A symbolism, a prophecy, a reason for being. And because of that this novel has a strong interwoven web of plot and arc that kept surprising me at every turn.

And Jandy Nelson’s writing style was a delight. Such a lovely turn of phrase where the narrative deals a lot with art – Jandy’s writing was akin to art itself without being egotistical.

I'll Give You The Sun Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Told in alternating perspectives by our two leads – the twins: Noah, 3 years in the past, and Jude, his sister in the present. I think the theme that is most heavy in the narrative and rings true for all the characters is that we are all fallible and struggling to find our way through this messy life, and find that safe place where we are expressing our true authentic selves. Add into that all the dramatic and familial themes that can happen like love, sex, sibling rivalry, coming of age, the deconstruction of childhood innocence, and ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ really shines.

Going into this novel with little prior knowledge I guessed at the main plot fairly early on, but it was never solidified as the diaphanous nature of symbolism and art weighing heavily on the narrative, there was always some doubt. But those early guesses came to ring true, but there was so much subtext and many, many arcs that grew around this main thread which provided such serendipity. I was transfixed.

There was one spot about halfway through the novel in a chapter from Jude’s point of view where the pacing lagged a little, but in hindsight it was setting up a number of plot points for the rollercoaster ride to the conclusion.

I’ll Give You the Sun’ wraps up nicely, a bitter-sweet ending with a strong sense of hope. It’s been a while since I last got a book hangover from a contemporary, and I highly recommend this. It has a delicate hand on some difficult topics and an interesting lens through which to view the world. I treasure this reading experience.

Overall feeling: My reading just leveled up!

I'll Give You The Sun Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I'll Give You The Sun Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ by Riley Redgate

Love the themes and experiment in formatting but the delivery was lacking.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 343

From Goodreads:

Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

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I really struggled with this novel, and it’s doubly disappointing because I really loved all her other title. The pacing as just so slow. I put the book down repeatedly due to lack of interest. It sort of picked up in the second half, but I still didn’t get that hook I was hoping for. I even felt the amazing writing style that I have come to expect had dimmed significantly.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe formatting of the novel also threw me off big time.

I loved the diverse cast, the concept of the seven deadly sins as a theme for each characters struggle. The characters were beautifully flawed and realistic, but I struggled to relate to, and care about any of them. I don’t understand how I was so detached? Maybe the fact we were dealing with so many big issues – slander, drug dealing, drug use, bullying, abuse of power, suggested statutory rape, divorce, abandonment, alcoholism, autism, gender identity, sexual orientation, and so on – it was a bit much to stomach from such a small group of high schoolers. The teacher in me arcs up and struggles to swallow the narrative. I guess it’s a good thing to have a strong reaction to the subject matter. Like I said, I loved the premise of ‘Seven Ways We Lie,’ the cast are amazing… but the uber-slow pacing just about did me in.

With run on sentences and dialogue in chapters I found difficult to read, and prose driven narration in others ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ is a great experiment in presenting tone in the layout of words. I can appreciate the attempt, but wasn’t sold on delivery.

I had given up on predicting the novel, I was just focusing on finishing it. Granted the last third is much more palatable, and that benchmark Redgate writing style started to shine through, but it was too little too late for me.

I hate to say it, but ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ was a big flop for me.

Maybe it was also because we follow so many perspectives?

Overall feeling: Oh no.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.