This post is full of spoilers. If you want a review without spoilers, visit I’ll Give You the Sun Book Review.
In I’ll Give You the Sun, we follow Noah and Jude from age 13 to 16. The book goes back and forth in time, starting with Noah.
Noah is always himself, refusing to succumb to the expectations of society, even if that gets him bullied. Then, while he is being tormented by two bullies who are trying to carry him to throw him into the ocean, one of them feels that he has a boner and is shocked into leaving him alone. Noah’s response is to hide within himself. He thinks everyone suspects but no one says a thing.
Dividing the Parents
Jude lives according to The Bible, a book of wisdom and superstitions from her grandmother, who visits her and speaks with her as a ghost. Jude can take on different personalities. She has friends at school and enjoys hanging out with them. She also looks out for Noah, taking care of him with her social capital. She’s also exasperated by him “Do you have to be so you all the time, Noah?“.
Noah and his father, Benjamin, do not get along. All Noah remembers are all the criticisms and admonishments from his father for not being strong enough, for not standing up for himself, for not being into sports. He thinks that Jude owns Dad and so he gets to own Mom who lavishes praise on him for his artwork. Jude feels left out.
Jude’s artwork are sand people that she carves but her mother has never seen them. Noah has seen them and even taken pictures and he worries that Jude may be a better artist than him. When he sees an invitation from Jude to their mom to come to the beach to see her work, Noah rips the note and throws it away. In any case, Dianna decides that her talented children must go to California School of the Arts, CSA, and not the local high school.
High School Dreams
The application process for CSA is competitive but Noah is confident he will be accepted. To prepare, he attends a summer drawing class through the classroom window. He even gets a footstool and stand, which one of the live models, a British guy, stole for him. He only met the model at the school once before the model was let go for showing up intoxicated. When Jude saw the picture that Noah had drawn of the model, she was instantly drawn to it and had to have it. She gave Noah the sun, stars, oceans and all the trees in exchange for the drawing. This left her only with flowers in their game of dividing up the world.
Noah had a bright summer. He met a boy, Brian, and fell in love even though nothing physical happened between them. He learned more about jealousy when he realized that Brian was popular in his school and a chameleon like Jude. Yet, he trusted Brian until a party where he thought that Brian and Jude hooked up. While he had his first kiss at that party, he could not forgive his sister for going after his best friend.
Jude was the popular one and suddenly, through Brian, there was Noah in her friend circle. She accused Noah of taking everything from her, her mom and her friends. She wanted revenge for that and Brian was part of her plan. In retaliation, Noah found the picture of the model that she’d bought and tore it to shreds, leaving the pieces in her room. Jude did not want to relinquish the photo so she stored all the pieces in a plastic bag under her bed.
When Brian returned to visit at Christmas, he and Noah finally kissed. But then Brian got cold feet, worried that he would lose his scholarship if people knew he was gay. Noah was distraught. When he saw Brian together with another girl, he told her that Brian was gay. That broke their friendship.
Jude and Zephyr hooked up at a party after she turned 14. He was almost four years older. Although he said she could say no, she did not feel like she could say no. Nothing felt okay afterward and she declared a boy boycott.
I didn’t know you could get buried in your own silence.
And then it was over.
And then everything was.
Her mother died the next day and Jude was locked in guilt and regret.
When the twins were 14, their parents separated and their dad moved out. Thinking that Dianna was about to tell his father that he was gay, Noah asked her not to. She surprised him by saying his father was afraid of him and thinks Noah doesn’t like him. Noah followed her to her rendezvous because he thought she was lying about who she was going to meet.
By following Dianna, Noah found out that she was having an affair with a renowned sculptor, Guillermo. When Noah confronted her, she admits that she loved Guillermo and wants to marry him.
As Dianna drove off to tell Benjamin she wanted a divorce, Noah screamed at her that he hated her. These were his last words to her as on the way, she died in a car accident. Noah told everyone, including Guillermo, that his mother was on the way to ask his father to come back home. Noah has been learning from Guillermo from the fire escape but after that, he did not return to the studio until he started following Jude years later.
Who’s the Artist?
Jude is the only Sweetwine child accepted to CSA. Jude is surprised that she got in and Noah that he did not. Noah starts to doubt his abilities and stops drawing. Instead, he starts diving from Devil’s Drop. After the first time when Jude had to rescue him from the water, she uses her friend network to keep an eye on him in case she needs to rescue him again.
Noah starts to surreptitiously work out with his dad’s weights in the garage and he joins track and field at school. Jude can no longer read his shuttered expression and the distance between them grows. Each of them has many secrets that maintain the divide.
Jude’s ceramic work at CSA keeps breaking. She is convinced that her mother is doing it because she is angry with her. She’s in danger of being put on probation at CSA and needs to make a dramatic change. Her advisor and instructor, Sandy, suggests that there is one sculptor she may be able to work with locally but warns her that he rarely accepts students anymore, Guillermo. When Jude looks up Guillermo, she finds an article her mother wrote about him. His work was incredible and she was excited to work with him.
On the walk to Guillermo’s studio/home, Jude stopped at a church. There, she ran into a boy with a camera. He called her an angel and asked to take photos of her. She finally conceded, drawn to him. While she couldn’ place him, she thought he looked familiar. He said she was “the one”.
Perplexed, Jude carried on to Guillermo’s. He answered the door in a rage and after slamming the door at her, she could hear chaos going on inside. After banging the door again, the guy from the church answered the door and told her it wasn’t a good time.
Determined, a few days later, Jude climbed onto the fire escape and watched Guillermo work. She saw him carve a couple and become overcome with grief. She could see many works of couples, different from his previous work. When he caught her, he was furious. She tried to escape but he caught up with her. Her curious exchange with him caught him off guard and he invited her in for a coffee. She took that as a good sign.
Despite the offer of coffee, Guillermo would not agree to work with Jude. Overwhelmed with emotion she had been holding in since her mother’s death, not having cried since, Jude started to weep. Guillermo asked if she was weeping because of her need to make a sculpture. She said yes and he finally agreed to work with her.
Jude finds out the name of the British guy – Oscar. While he has a dorm at college, he spends a lot of time with Guillermo. Guillermo rescued him from himself, provided him a place to stay and supported him in attending AA and NA classes. Oscar was like his father and warned him away from Jude. Gui told Jude that while he loved Oscar, he wouldn’t let his daughter near him as he was too young and brash.
Despite the warnings from Guillermo, Oscar and Jude are drawn to each other. They flirt with each other and become more embroiled with each other.
Jude learns a lot about sculpture from Guillermo and is finally ready to create her sculpture of her mom. But then she realizes that she needs to make another sculpture first, one of her and her brother. She sketches the sculpture, the two of them together, merging. In the process of sculpting, she realizes that she needs to free both of them. She will tell her brother her secrets. To Guillermo’s dismay, she splits the sculpture into two.
Before Jude could meet Noah, she gets a call that he’s in trouble. She goes looking for him and meets Zephyr. For the first time, she confronts him, spitting at him as they race to find Noah. She tells him that she was too young and he mustn’t use any other young girl that way.
Noah’s been playing a drinking game and is about to do a foolhardy, dangerous dive. Jude gets him off the edge but then he escapes and starts once one for the jump. This time, he is tackled by Oscar. Jude is surprised to discover that Noah and Oscar know each other. Oscar calls Noah Picasso, a name from another time, when he used to live and breathe art, even drawing inside his head and with his fingers. Jude and Oscar bring Noah home.
Jude is ready to make amends. She has decided to give up her spot at CSA for Noah. She also wants to try to get Noah and Brian back together. For years, Noah had been posting on a site, trying to connect with Brian, with no answer. Jude finds Brian’s email at university and mails Noah’s note to him from an anonymous email address.
The Ending of I’ll Give You The Sun
Jude is ready to create the sculpture of her mother and shows her final sketches to Guillermo. This is how he learns that Dianna is her mother. His response is to let her know that he can’t work with her anymore. Noah is listening and watching from the fire escape. He enters the studio after Oscar. Then the wall of secrets starts to tumble. Jude realizes that her mom was in love with Guillermo, and Noah confesses that he also knew this and lied about it. Guillermo’s response is joy, Jude’s is understanding…
I had no idea who Mom was. He wasn’t being cruel. He wasn’t hogging her. He was protecting her And Dad and me. He was protecting our family.
… and grief. She lets herself grieve.
On the walk home from Guillermo’s, the twins untangle the rest of their lies. Noah shares that he’s gay and his mom knew. Jude shares that she never mailed his CSA application. Noah’s reaction is unexpected. He is jubilant, realizing that he wasn’t rejected. Then he shows Jude his mural, one that tells all their stories. “There is the world, remade.” Jude takes photos to send CSA even though Noah says he doesn’t want to go there. His art isn’t about getting accepted into a school.
It’s about magic.
With all the secrets revealed, Jude and Noah find each other once more. They hug and are taken off their feet.
Mother’s are the parachutes.
Jude and Noah are whole.
Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.
No More Secrets
As Jude and Noah are lying on the forest floor, their dad joins them. He and Noah have also found a bridge to each other of late. It’s time to tell Benjamin the secret too. It was a relief for both of them. It made sense to the scientist in Benjamin. Jude later confessed about not mailing Noah’s application as well.
Later that night, as the Sweetwines get ready for dinner, the twins get a glimpse of the man their father used to be. He suggests that they move to a houseboat, and then he puts on some jazz. Jude is about to help with. the cooking when Oscar walks in.
Oscar tells Jude that they need to wait a few years to find each other again. He also tells her about her mother, the painter, the mother who was proud of both her children. He says he’ll wait for Jude, for their time, since she’s the girl in the prophecy from his mother.
When Noah and Jude visit Guillermo’s studio, it has been transformed. All the mess that used to be there has been cleaned. While talking about Dianna and her art, Guillermo reveals that he knows about Jude’s sand women. He submitted copies with her CSA application, anonymously. He did it because that was Dianna’s plan but she wasn’t there to do it herself. Since Benjamin said he doesn’t mind, Jude will keep working with Guillermo.
Noah made his own amends with Brian, sending him a series of drawings. Brian finally responded to his online ad inviting him to their special place, saying “I’ll be there”. Noah also received an invitation to join CSA and is deciding whether to accept; Jude doesn’t have to give up her space for him.
One week later, Brian and Noah walked out of the forest holding hands, officially coming out to his dad that way. Benjamin’s reaction was acceptance. As a ladybug landed on Jude’s hand she made a wish: “Remake the world”.
Note that Amazon Links are affiliate links. This means that I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases made at Amazon if you use this link to make a purchase.