I’ll Give You the Sun is a gem, a masterpiece, a book that is not like anything I’ve ever read before. It’s poetic, gripping, heart-wrenching and so beautiful! I recommend it with all my heart.
This book has won just about any prize that exist (Printz Award, Stonewall Honor, YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction, Rainbow List Top Ten etc.) and I completely understand why. This book deserves all the love in the world!
Storywise, I’ll Give You the Sun is a young adult coming-of-age novel, which follows the lives of non-identical twins Noah and Jude Sweetwine at the ages of 13, 14, and 16. The early years are written from Noah’s point of view whereas the later years are written from Jude’s. Up until age 13 the twins are best friends, so close that they are more or less the same person. Then something happens that turns them into bitter enemies. The story is not linear, instead the early and later years are mixed, to give us a hint of what might happen or how something Noah describes in the early years have consequences from Jude’s perspective and vice versa. It also gives you a much deeper understanding of how the schism between the twins happens and why.
It’s also a wonderful love story (or several parallel ones actually) and a story about becoming who you truly are. Noah is struggling with coming out to himself and to others about being gay and in love with the boy next door, the charismatic Brian. Jude on the other hand is on a boy boycott when she meets the arrogant and broken, yet beautiful Oscar. Then there’s the underlaying love story that isn’t completely revealed until the very end.
But what’s so completely different with this book is the stunning way it is written. Not just the beautiful language but there’s such uniqueness in the way the words are used and how art is integrated in the story. Especially Noah’s parts are written with metaphors and with paintings describing what’s happening and how Noah feels as an outsider, explaining in such an amazing way how he misinterprets social codes. Noah’s love story was so heartbreaking and emotional to read whenever things didn’t go his way due to his difficulty figuring out his sexuality and other people’s reactions. And Jude, I loved her fierceness and humor, and how she had all these fun dialogues with her grandma’s ghost in her mind, and also out loud sometimes.
As the story evolves it is clear that Jude and Noah have done so many things to hurt each other and others as well. Really bad things. Almost unforgivable things. And there are so many secrets that just have to come tumbling out eventually. So much misunderstandings and heart-aches. All of the characters have to overcome their pasts and learn to trust and forgive (each other as well as themselves). And to dare to love again and to allow themselves to be loved. The heartbreaking story unravels slowly but in a way that gets you so attached to these characters. I felt for them so so much! There were parts that I almost didn’t dare to read, being so afraid of the pain and hurt I suspected was coming the characters’ way…
I’ll Give You the Sun might just be one of the most beautiful, awe inspiring books I’ve ever read. It might take a little while to get into it and fully grip the language as it is so unusual in its writing, but it is so worth it. So worth it! I promise. This is one of my absolute favorite reads of all time!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jandy Nelson
So this book isn’t really a YA book, but I love it so much that I have decided to include it in my reading tips anyway. From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon is such an amazing, beautiful, gripping, emotional and heartfelt read that I wanted to share it with you all.
This is an epic love story during WWII between Angelo, a Catholic priest, and Eva, a Jew, as Hitler’s army is sweeping throughout Europe, inciting death and destruction.
Eva and Angelo were raised like family, but as the years went by, the two found themselves falling in love. But the church called to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chose the priesthood. A decade later, with Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent. But, Eva refuses to allow herself to be hidden away, allowing Angelo to bear the brunt of everything, while her family and so many others are being persecuted. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial and so much death and danger, grief and heartbreak, intrigue and suspense, so many moral dilemmas and personal crisis of faith, so much sacrifice, so much yearning.
From Sand and Ash is a heartbreaking story, with evil and horror, but also so much love, hope and humanity. At times, it was painful to read, so intense and emotional, but in the end it really shows the strength of love. This story took my breath away and is one I will never forget. It is brilliant and by far one of the best books I’ve ever read. I recommend it with all my heart!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Amy Harmon
The Wicked King is the second book in the dark tale of Jude Duarte and her sisters, and their struggle as mortal in a faerie world. Jude has been such a favorite character for me since the first book in this series, The Cruel Prince. She’s a complete bad ass, strong and fearless and never whining or feeling sorry for herself no matter what ill treatments and injustice she suffers. After all that happened to her in The Cruel Prince, I wondered (and feared) what more evil Holly Black could possibly to do her this time around? Quite a lot it turned out…
The Wicked King picks up five months after the end of book one and the jaw-dropping revelation that Jude’s little brother Oak is the heir to Faerie, and we get to see how Cardan has developed as a ruler, after several months’ worth of practice. We also discover how Jude’s deception has affected their love/hate relationship thing they have going on, since she’s bound Cardan to her and made herself the power behind the throne. No ruler is ever safe in Elfhame, though. Jude can’t let her guard down for a minute, having to navigate Faerie politics and deal with enemies from without and within the kingdom. As if that wasn’t enough, Jude is constantly at odds with Cardan, who takes every measure to humiliate or defy her wishes. At the same time, there is a spark, an attraction neither of them can get away from.
A LOT happens in this book, much of which I simply cannot tell you without spoiling the whole plot. We get to see new parts of the faerie world that were only hinted at in the first book, like the Undersea. We are re-introduced to characters that I assumed were out of the story, in new unexpected ways. And there are upheaval of political alliances and feuds everywhere. The pace of the story is even faster than in the first book and the plot just draws you in completely. Holly Black makes an amazing job keeping her reader at suspense, and to always deliver the unexpected. The intrigue and power dynamics were so entrancing that I couldn’t put the book down until the very end. There were twists I never in a million years saw coming.
I have some mixed feelings about Jude and Cardan’s relationship though. It’s intriguing, for sure, but I don’t know if I want them to be a couple or not, which is a bit frustrating as a reader. I can’t see their relationship ever becoming a good one. There will always be this unhealthy undercurrent, a hint of violence and abuse, that you don’t want anyone ever get caught up in. Yet, some part of me want them to be together, to admit their feelings for each other. So, very mixed feelings for the book in that respect. Nevertheless, the book itself is so good and I truly recommend it and am now eagerly awaiting The Queen of Nothing. It’s simply impossible to not continue reading this series to see where Holly Black takes us and what more she will do to Jude until the end...
Find out more about the book and the author here: Holly Black
Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott is a bittersweet love story about two teens, Stella and Will, who struggle with sickness (cystic fibrosis) and the uncertainty of their futures.
Stella is an organized achiever who has her life in order and manages her medications and treatments efficiently. Will is the total opposite; a rule breaker, tired of medications, hospitalizations, and drug trials. When Stella and Will first meet at the hospital, they infuriate each other but, as in any true opposites-attract fashion, romance eventually blooms. The bacteria infecting Will is easily transmitted and drug resistant, and he therefore has to stay six feet away from the other patients, making a relationship impossible.
An interesting fact is that the movie came first, rather than the book. In a way, you can sense that when reading the book, as it is very fast-paced and situation-driven. The love story part felt a bit forced in the beginning and I had some trouble connecting with the characters at first. But it picked up after a while and the characters gained more depth and their emotional struggles became more engaging as the story continued.
I liked the concept of the “non-touching” relationship and that the book brings attention to a severe disease that I don’t think everyone knows about. And I am a hopeless sucker for love, especially the forbidden Romeo-and-Juliet-kind, so I ended up loving this book much more than I’d ever thought. Even though there were some triggering tropes and the ending that felt quite unbelievable and too much out of character for Stella. But all in all, this is a really cute and fast-paced bittersweet story that deals with pain and sorrow, with a new and unique angle to the engaging forbidden love plot.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Five Feet Apart
You know the feeling when you just can’t put a book down and it’s making you all feverish and happy and scared that something bad will happen to the characters and laughing and crying at the same time? Birthday by Meredith Russo is that kind of book.
The topic of this book is heavy, dealing with things like the death of a parent, transgender, bullying and suicide, but Meredith Russo found a perfect balance between the hardship and struggles and still creating a hopeful story, heart-warming and oh so gripping story.
Birthday is about Morgan and Eric who are bonded for life after being born on the same day at the same time. We meet them once a year on their shared birthday as they grow and change: as Eric figures out who he is and how he fits into the world, and as Morgan makes the difficult choice to live as her true self. The story is told from both Morgan’s and Eric’s POV with snapshots of their birthdays from age 13 to 18. I really loved this concept of alternating POVs and how so much can be read into what has happened during the time between the birthdays. Over the years, they will drift apart, come together, fight, make up, and break up—and ultimately, when tragedy strikes, realizing that they need one another more than ever. While this novel hugely deals with Morgan being transgender, at its core this is definitely a love story. The relationship between the two is so beautiful and definitely one of my favorites ever.
I loved both of the main characters. My heart went out for Morgan already from the start, when he’s grieving his mother and having to go through all his problems without her to talk to. But I also really loved Eric too, he was such a genuinely good person and caring friend. It was so amazing how Eric supported Morgan, even before he understood what was going on with her. Meredith Russo did such a great job in describing how Eric subconsciously had feelings for Morgan as if she was a girl before she even knew if for certain herself. And then, when she came out to him, it was absolutely beautiful to see how Eric used immediately and completely natural used the she pronouns.
Meredith Russo has created a masterpiece in Birthday! I recommend it with all my heart. It’s such a realistic novel not avoiding any of the hardship (I cried so much!) but it’s also so full of hope and love and friendship, that it leaves you with this warm, happy feeling nevertheless.
I also loved, loved, loved Meredith Russo’s first book, If I Was Your Girl. It’s a story that has stayed with me since I read it, and which I will always remember. Both her books are such important eye-openers that they should be among required reading in school, but they are also such amazing, powerful, heart-wrenching and beautiful stories that deserves to be read on their own merits.
Find out more about the books and the author here: Meredith Russo