I’ll Give You the Sun

Sometimes, when it takes me a while to finish a book, it’s because I just couldn’t get into it. (See my previous post.) Other times, however, my reasons are more complicated. My latest read, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, took me about six weeks to get through, but the problem definitely wasn’t that I couldn’t get into it. Just the opposite, in fact.

I’ll Give You the Sun–like the works of John Green, Gayle Forman, and Rainbow Rowell–is one of those books with the power to completely take over everything, causing me to forget to sleep or eat and making me resent going to work. So, I had to force myself to only pick up this book when I could devote all of my attention to it…and I was finally able to do a lot of that this weekend. I consider it a weekend well spent…even with all of the ugly crying going on.

This amazing book tells the story of Jude and Noah, twins who have been torn apart by heart-breaking circumstances. Told in alternating perspectives–the earlier years by Noah and the later years by Jude–this story allows readers to see both sides of a tarnished (yet still beautiful) coin.

Through Noah’s eyes, we see Noah and his obsession with the pictures in his head, the enigmatic boy next door, and his fear that both he and his art are simply not good enough. We see Jude, her wild ways, and Noah’s confusion over why she’s drifting away from him. We also see the pain of being different, Noah’s struggle to find–and accept–his own identity, and how secrets big and small have the power to rip a boy’s soul to pieces.

Through Jude’s eyes, readers see what the twins are like just a few short years later. Jude is no longer the wild child of the bunch. That honor goes to Noah. Jude is now the withdrawn, artistic twin, and she wants to find some way to reach her brother and force him to really be his true self. All the while, Jude is also wrestling with her own ghosts and seeking a measure of peace in her life.

What could have caused such a drastic personality switch in these once-close twins, and is there any way to heal the wounds of the past and move toward a happy future?

With the help of a couple of people with odd connections to the twins’ past, there may be hope for these two siblings to once again find each other. The journey will not be without its painful revelations, but, if they can make it through to the other side, they may just find everything they thought they’d lost.

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As so often happens with books that grab me and won’t let go, this post doesn’t begin to do I’ll Give You the Sun justice. I laughed, I cried, and I roared at the vindictiveness of siblings, twins who claim to love each other more than anything. I’ll Give You the Sun was an intense, emotional roller coaster, and I honestly wasn’t ready for the ride to end. That may be another reason I took my time with this one. On some level, I knew that this book would be one to savor.

For more information on author Jandy Nelson and this amazing book, I encourage you to visit the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

*This amazing book is being touted as one of the great new YA reads, and I totally agree with that. I would, however, caution some librarians, teachers, parents, and others that recommend books to young people that I’ll Give You the Sun does explore some mature themes–sexual identity and alcohol abuse being two of them. Those themes may be par for the course for many teen readers, but I doubt I’d recommend this book to anyone below the high school level…unless that reader showed incredible maturity. Of course, you know the young people in your lives better than I do, so do what you will.*

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to my latest read, Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  This book was on my to-read pile for quite a while, and I finally began reading it exactly two weeks ago.  Well, as it so often does, life got in the way (work, sickness, family stuff, bought a new phone, librarian conference, etc.), and I wasn’t able to finish the book until this morning.  Anyway, I’m so glad I finally picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bone (at the suggestion of several fellow bloggers and librarians).  It was well worth every spare minute I spent devouring the world of Karou and Akiva.  Yes, it took me longer to finish this book than is normal, but, in a way, that’s good.  I was able to fully digest the story, appreciate the depth of the characters, analyze the intricacies of the plot, and think about what might be happening in the future.  (I was nearly always wrong, so kudos to Laini Taylor for keeping me guessing.)

Karou is not exactly a normal girl. Her hair is naturally blue, she is an artist in Prague, she speaks many languages–both human and not-so-human–she runs mysterious errands for her “family,” and she was raised by someone–or something–named Brimstone. No one takes her seriously when she talks about Brimstone and the other “monsters” in her world, and that’s okay with Karou. In certain circumstances, the less people know or believe, the better. But even Karou doesn’t know everything about herself. Brimstone won’t tell her about her parents, why she collects teeth from nefarious types all over the world, how the portals to his shop work, or what the other door in the shop leads to. Karou’s life is full of secrets, but when black handprints begin appearing on the portal doors to Brimstone’s lair, those secrets begin to reveal themselves…

Karou isn’t sure what’s going on, but she knows that danger is all around her…and when she’s attacked by someone who can only be described as an angel, she’s convinced that her family is threatened.  Oh, how right she is.  But why?  What does this angel have against the beings that have loved and cared for her forever?  And why is she so drawn to someone seemingly determined to destroy her entire world?

Akiva was bred to be a warrior, to battle the vile chimaera that have plagued his kind for centuries.  But his war against the hideous creatures goes even deeper.  He’s determined to bring an end to this war by any means necessary…until he encounters Karou.  Who is this blue-haired girl with the power of the chimaera and the face of an angel?  At first, Akiva is unsure about Karou’s connection to the chimaera, but he soon discovers that her connection to them–and him–goes far deeper than either of them thought possible.

Karou and Akiva seem to be inextricably linked, and, as they grow ever closer, the past, the present, and the future conspire to drive them further apart.  How can their fragile relationship hope to survive in a brutal war that has been tearing worlds apart for centuries?  And when long-held secrets are finally revealed, will their connection be severed forever…or will it unite them against the forces that seek to kill any hope for peace?  Explore the possibilities when you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I will anyway (because it’s my blog, and I can do what I want to).  I adored this book.  It is unlike anything I’ve read in recent memory.  All at once, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a fantasy, a tale of forbidden love, and a story of an epic, otherworldly war that rivals the myths of ancient civilizations the world over.  Every setting in the book was richly described, so much so that I now feel that I’ve actually been to Prague or Marrakesh.  The characters were flawed yet perfect in their own way.  It was difficult differentiate between “angel” and “devil” because each character had good and evil within them…just like all of us out here in the real world.

If you haven’t picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet, do yourself a favor, and check it out soon.  It’s an amazing story that will definitely keep you on your toes.  It took me on a journey that was both unexpected and amazing, and I hope you’ll feel the same.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first book in a trilogy.  Book two, Days of Blood and Starlight, is set to be released on November 6th of this year.  In the meantime, you can get more information on author Laini Taylor and Daughter of Smoke and Bone at http://www.lainitaylor.com/ and http://daughterofsmokeandbone.com/.  Enjoy!