I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson, A Review

Elke reviews & interviews

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Growing up I read voraciously. Devouring books. Entire books in one day—on the couch, as I walked around, in the tub, in bed until the book finished.

As a parent that kind of reading escaped me. Time, energy, patience were in short supply. As my kids have grown I have become more of a Netflix consumer of content. I wanted and needed the lazy escape. Reading was a short window into eyes closed zzzzzzz’s.

But here is the thing about reading, while TV shows allow you to check out, books allow for the actual transportation, the feeling of running away.

I have had a difficult summer. My mother is ill and everything is revolving around unplannable circumstances. I feel like I am being turned to dust. I needed to run away.

I did. I ran away without leaving home. I read I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I read it in one day. All of it.

It is technically a YA novel, but the characters Jude and Noah (twins) are completely consumed with their mother’s death and the circumstances that lead to it. In a fascinating bit of narrative structure, one twin tells the story from when they are 13, the other tells from when they are 16, and the book magically weaves the two together until the events become clear.

As a mom this book fascinated me—the hidden secrets of the mother, the way her children felt about her as tweens, the giant hole she left behind. She is a complex, full, conflicted and passionate mom. Everyone has secrets and desires, but it is the rare storybook mom whose contradictions are brought to the surface in a way that doesn’t vilify or minimize her.

I also felt let in to the inner thoughts of teenagers. My kids are just now turning that corner and I know that there is an entire world happening inside their clamped mouths and closed doors and headphones. This big book brings to life the silent thoughts of art, sexuality, discovery, shame. It is a bit like having a line into everything unsaid.

And as a daughter in the throws of uncertainty about my own mother’s health seeing these two astounding and imperfect heroes move through life without their mom shocked me, scared me and inspired me to know my mother better.

I leave much unsaid, especially now, because it is all just too much, to contradictory. Too raw. I'll Give You the Sun was like a pressure valve.

I felt. For the first time all summer I felt.

There is first love and sex and death and ghosts and art (oh god the art!) and ultimately so much hope.

The book delivers on its title. It gave me the sun, when I absolutely needed it.


About the Author


Elke Govertsen is a entrepreneur and founder of Mamalode. She has been featured in Real Simple, Forbes, Where Women Create, Ad Tech, and listed as one of Origin Magazine's "Top 100 Creatives." She has been a speaker at The Girls Lounge, Adweek, C2Montreal, HATCH, TEDx and (her favorite) in classrooms. She speaks on a variety of topics from entrepreneurship to overcoming obstacles. She loves consulting in the areas of community design, storytelling and brand building. Her special skills include extreme bootstrapping, overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities. Of the many things she has learned by doing Mamalode, her ability to work with absolute chaos/kids/mess just might be the best. She is learning that slowing down creates more impact.

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July 2015 – Dive In
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