Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What we're reading: Magical realism

At the beginning of I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, 13-year-old twins Jude and Noah are two halves of a whole. Noah is introspective, and relates to the world through his drawings, both real and imagined, but he is starting to have a sense of who he is in the world, including his fascination with the boy next door. Jude is outgoing and expressive, confident and popular, and looks out for Noah when he is targeted by bullies.
Three years later, at 16, they almost seem to have swapped places: Noah has inexplicably quit making art and is busy being--or at least looking like--a "regular guy," while Jude seems fragile and broken; and far from finishing each other's sentences, they now hardly speak to one another. What happened? and what will it take for them to realize that neither of them knows the whole story?

I loved this book so, so SO much. I think it is my new YA favorite for 2014. The characters in it relate to the world through art, and find the art in everything, which is always a plus for me; but the way in which they do this is so quirky and endearing, it made me immediately like and understand the characters and want to know them. The elements of magical realism (visitations from dead relatives for Jude, and inanimate objects that come to life through Noah's artistic vision) definitely give the book something extra.
The relationships between brother and sister, parents and children, and love interests are all complex and filled with joy and pain, but told in such a fresh, smart, different way. This isn't a typical "teen angst" story--the adults have a place on the page too, and this enriches the story without taking it over. The depth of the misunderstandings and betrayals, and the breathless anticipation to see whether any or all of them will be resolved carries you through the time switches (the book spans about three years' time but jumps back and forth between ages 13 and 16, and between narrators Jude and Noah). It was such a good story that I'm dying to sit down and read it again, just to renew the experience. I never read Nelson's first book, The Sky is Everywhere, but NOW I will!
I usually hate it when publishers compare one writer or work to another in the cover blurbs, because usually it's just jumping on the coattails of a more popular book, hoping to benefit; but I truly believe that readers who loved Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, or Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, would also adore this book. Let me know if you agree.
5 out of 5 from me!

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