One for the Artists [Café Libro]

Emily Dexter

Let me be clear; Jandy Nelson’s award-winning novel I’ll Give You the Sun is a work of art. The book is split between two timelines: the first narrated by 13-year-old Noah, and the second by his twin sister Jude, three years later. In the space between those two narratives, Noah goes from being a passionate, misfit artist to blending with the crowd, and Jude transforms from a daring creative into a quiet, superstitious girl who talks to ghosts more than people her age. The story in between those two very different worlds, and the one that unwinds in its aftermath, unfold from each perspective with elegance, wit and sparkling insight.

As a disclaimer, some of the content is not quite what I’d want my parents reading over my shoulder, but otherwise, this book is a masterpiece. I’ll Give You the Sun is a rich discussion of family, love, loss and finding yourself again after losing your way.

As an aspiring artist (although mostly in the literary sense, unlike Noah and Jude), reading this novel was like plugging myself into a creative power source. Growing up, I’ve have (and still do) wrestle with my fair share of doubts about my abilities. Could I really be good enough to pursue my artform as more than a simple hobby? What will other people think of me for what I create? And why can I not seem to stop caring? These are the questions that sometimes haunt me, but I’ll Give You the Sun offered a refreshing burst of perspective and encouragement. Whether or not you’re in the same sort of boat as me, I would definitely recommend this book, not only for its empowering message but also for the beautiful prose and intricately interwoven storyline.


The Next Challenge

To continue the artistic theme, this week I’m challenging my co-blogger Carson to read The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr. Like Noah and Jude, protagonist Lucy grew up in a family that put an emphasis on the arts. However, despite her immense talent, Lucy’s family and the pressure she feels to excel as a concert pianist drive her to abandon music until her younger brother’s new piano teacher helps her to find a way to begin again, but this time for herself instead of for an audience. The Lucy Variations should make for a lighter read, so I’m hoping you’ll be able to enjoy this one as much as I did.


On this blog, Emily Dexter and Carson TerBush will put their book recommendations to the test. Each week, one will challenge each other to read a book she has read before and enjoyed. The following week, they will judge the recommended book and then propose the next challenge. They hope to inspire new readers to read some new books. To read more, check out the Café Libro blog at