It’s been over four years since Sky, Jandy Nelson’s debut, made everything crystalline for me. I used to have the hardest time explaining to agents and authors what I wanted beyond “really, really good manuscripts,” which is like having an online dating profile saying you like to do “really, really fun stuff.” It was The Sky is Everywhere that broke it open for me. I made everyone read it—my best friend, my teenage cousins, my husband, my mother, my grandpa (I have a kickass 96-year-old grandpa). I began to tell people, “This. This is what I want. Novels like The Sky is Everywhere.” Little did I know then that I’d get to work with Jandy Nelson herself one day, and that her second book, I’ll Give You the Sun, wouldn’t just break it open for me, it would break my effing heart.
I’ll Give You the Sun is a soaring, pinwheeling, forget-where-you-are, steal-your-breath, feel-it-in-your-bones, transcendent, transporting whirlwind. It’s the kind of novel that makes you cry through the happy parts as much as the sad parts for the sheer depth of feeling, sheer aliveness of its characters, sheer boldness of its telling. Reading it, I had the same falling-headlong feeling, the same zap of recognition I’d had at eighteen when I read Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat for the first time. This is the kind of novel that stays with you, that you read over and over again. It’s the kind of novel that lasts.
The voices here are the voices of two teen fraternal twins, one a boy, one a girl, telling their stories from two different, crucial points in time—one from before the event that changed their lives and one from after. Both are magical, visceral, pop-off-the-page voices—so hard to find. To do justice to these siblings, Jandy essentially wrote one novel, then another novel, and then wove those two novels together to create a third, I’ll Give You the Sun. No wonder it took her four years.
It was The Sky is Everywhere that brought me to Jandy Nelson, and I’ll Give You the Sun that will make me stay with her. What this novel accomplishes is raw and rare, and it will change some readers’ lives. Is it too much to say that I’ll Give You the Sun redefines the boundaries of what makes a YA novel YA? Nah, I’d say that’s just about right on target.
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