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I'll Give You a Two Out of Five

I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson

When I heard how Jandy Nelson's "I'll Give You the Sun" won the Printz, a lot of the reviews boiled down to the story's surrealist narration. Those who liked it, loved the book. Those who didn't found it tedious.


I found it okay, but mostly a brightly colored varnish because, without the surrealistic blue barf and quirky superstitions of their characters, this novel doesn't hold together very well in any test of grounding it by characterizations, situations, or relationships. And magical realism or surrealism works best when it becomes a distortion from the foundations of the world we see.


The way Nelson wove the two halves of the story in past and present was very well planned out, but the manner in getting them around often resorted to destined instant love, strained conflicts arising from rom-com levels of not bothering to have simple conversations, and secondary characters acting as mouthpieces for the twins' validation.and struggles rather than actual human beings. The worst cases being Oscar, a walking bundle of English bad boy cliches, and Heather, Noah's best friend who is never given a personality beyond "once liked Noah and found out he was gay."


While it's not a bad book, I'm still very surprised to see so many people think it worthy of the Printz. Its moments of artistic poignancy were well done, but a lot of the book felt like strained symbolism or random digressions involving orgasmic donuts. I like my surrealism to transcend, not resort to cliches so frequently.




P.S. I'm also surprised it got a Stonewall honor. It's good that we've gotten to the point where our gay protagonists can be complete shits (and Noah is definitely a jealous and possessive jerk toward his love interest), but the resolution for their conflict is taken care of off screen a few pages from the end, and in a manner that's way too tidy for something as egregious as outing the person you loved right after they explained how they were afraid for their safety and scholarship if it came out. Surely there were more LGBTQ fiction stories published this year that are worthier?