I start all of my review drafts with the Cannonball Read number because that used to be how we formatted our titles way back in Cannonball Read Four. So, Holy motherforking shirtballs everyone, I just typed CBR10 for the first time as relates to a review. Let’s do this!
I try to select my books carefully for the “big” reviews of the year, so while packing for holiday travel I grabbed my copy of I’ll Give You the Sun from my bedside table and tucked it into my backpack. The time was now: this book had been on my to read list for a couple years following an enthusiastic review from scootsa1000. Scoots’ review had stayed with me so well that a little less than a year ago I snagged myself a paperback copy at an independent bookstore I was killing time at because I knew, knew, knew that I was going to read it and want a copy to have. I rarely let myself buy books, but this one made the cut sight unseen. If you follow that link you’ll see that review is from 2015 and I said in my comment that it would be a few months before I read it… well it has been three years and I don’t know what took me so long, I could have fallen in love with these characters so much sooner
This is a lot of preamble to get to the point: if you like YA at all and haven’t read this book you should rectify that pretty quickly. Jandy Nelson has a way with world building and character development that insidiously sinks into you. During the first half of the novel I was thinking it was quite good and I would probably end up rating it 3.5-4 stars and have some really nice things to say about the characters and the plot, and the easy but satisfying mystery of the missing in-between years (our narrators trade off from either side of a two year gap where we know what happened, but we don’t know what really happened). Then, somewhere around page 200 I fell ecstatically in love with the characters, their ways of expressing themselves, the realness of their lived experience, and the sorrows they carried with them, both before and after the big tragedies.
Jandy Nelson describes her work as a story about artistic passion and pleasure, about the ecstatic impulse, and about split-aparts. It is also a work about self, and being firmly in this life, and also not. Its about solving big puzzles and putting the pieces back together. For me, it is also a fantastic look at family, siblings, and grief and what you use to pull yourself out of the darkness and find your authentic voice.
May we all be like Grandma Sweetwine: have our own bible of wisdom we have gathered and a relationship with the universe so personal that we feel comfortable calling god Clark Gable. Make a wish, take a chance, remake the world.