I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get to this review because my response has moved from the emotional to the more intellectual (or at least, less emotional). Jandy Nelson’s novel reminds me of being a teenager—a fast-paced welter of feelings and thoughts, often confusing, but just experienced so strongly and passionately.
So here’s the basic set up. Jude and Noah are thirteen year old twins who are both very distinct personalities but also have a strong bond with each other. Noah loves art, is introverted and often bullied, and is not fully dealing with his attraction to boys. Jude has an artistic side too but is extroverted, strong-willed, and often has to serve as Noah’s protector. Then a series of events happen that not only rip Noah and Jude apart but also shake their very identities. I don’t want to talk too much about these events here since part of the ride of the book is slowly realizing the extent of all that happens.
The novel alternates between Jude and Noah—Noah tells their story at age thirteen while Jude narrates from a distance of three years later. This is a story about love, about making art, about family bonds and betrayals, and about how no matter how close we are to someone, we never truly know them. In hindsight, things click together just a bit too neatly in places but that weakness is more than made up for by writing that is beautiful, passionate, and full of heart.
If you want to feel like a teenager again (and god knows, I’m a long distance from those years now), read this book.