Originally published March 2015
So. I thought I was having this super momentous experience with my 13-year-old daughter last week.
I bought her “Forever” by Judy Blume—one the best books I’ve ever read on first love and “the first time.” My mom gave it to me in middle school, and now, it was her turn. I asked her to come to me with any questions.
In turn, she gave me her copy of “I’ll Give You the Sun.” A blogging friend of mine had read it and loved it, and I bought it for us to share. Her review? “One of the best books ever, Mom. You HAVE to read it.”
Last week, when she was reading about this nice high school couple, Michael and Kath, giggling over nicknames for body parts and learning how to love and break up, I was blessed with four love stories:
- An adulterous affair between a mother and artist;
- A forever-entwined twin brother/sister tale;
- First love for a 16-year-old girl with a 19-year-old boy; and
- A gay 13-year-old boy falling in love with his baseball star next-door neighbor.
So, that YA genre has taken enlightenment up a notch or two. And now I know why my daughter thought “Forever” was no big thang. (It’s still a kickass book, by the way. Every mother should buy it for their daughter.)
Jandy Nelson’s “I’ll Give You the Sun” is a fantastic deep-dive into the minds of two artistic twin teens, Jude and Noah. Each crave what every kid craves—acceptance from their peers and understanding along with unconditional love from their parents. In the case of these two, their talent and eccentricities endear them in different ways to their parents, which proves tough for Noah and his dad and Jude and her mom.
Noah, all of 13, also struggles with what he knows to be true—he is gay. Things come to a head when 14-year-old Brian moves in net door for the summer. A baseball phenom at his boarding school, Brian is also gay and coming to terms with his sexuality. A friendship is borne out of mutual understanding—only to be cut short by jealousy and misunderstanding.
Mistakes are made, the story plays out and people are hurt. Both Noah and Jude have to live with the choices they’ve made. If only the truth could come out …
As intense as the themes may seem, I can appreciate why my daughter loved it so much, for above all, it is all about all kinds of love—the very best kind of story. If you like to share books with your tweens and teens, this is a keeper.