Tag: Jandy Nelson

Top 5 Fiction Reads of 2014

These are my favourite fiction books read or reviewed (not necessarily published) in 2014. Click the title for links to the full reviews. Check back on Friday for my top non-fiction reads of the year.

All I Love and Know 

ISBN 9780062302878

Cover image for All I Love and Know by Judith FrankDaniel and his partner Matt live a peaceful life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Their quiet existence is torn apart when Daniel’s twin brother Joel, and his wife, Ilana, are killed by a suicide bomber in a Jersalem cafe, leaving behind two young children. Both Joel’s parents and Ilana’s assume they will raise Gal and Noam, but neither set of grandparents knows about the promise Daniel made Joel and Ilana on his last visit to Israel.  Author Judith Frank lived in Israel for several years as a teenager, and her own twin sister still lives their with her husband. All I Love and Know is a complex and challenging novel that deals with not one but two important contemporary issues–gay parenting and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict–wrapped in a love story about a couple struggling to find their way back to one another after a devastating loss.

Categories: LGBT

A Thousand Pieces of You

ISBN 9780062278968

Cover image for A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia GrayMarguerite is an artist, but she is the daughter of two brilliant scientists, inventors of the Firebird, a groundbreaking device that enables inter-dimensional travel. When one of her parents’ graduate assistants murders her father and escapes by stealing a Firebird and jumping into another dimension, Marguerite teams up with another graduate student, and gives chase. Her mission: KILL PAUL MARKOV. With a twist on the idea of multiple universes, Claudia Gray invents a device that projects the consciousness of the user into the body of their alternate selves in other dimensions. While this eliminates the usual trope of accidentally encountering other selves, it creates its own set of moral and ethical quandaries when characters hijack the lives and choices of their counterparts. As Marguerite pursues her father’s killer through multiple dimensions, Gray has a forum to show off her talent with multiple genres, from science fiction, to contemporary, to historical in this fast-paced adventure.

Categories: Young Adult, Science Fiction

I’ll Give You the Sun

ISBN 9780803734968

Cover image for I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy NelsonThirteen-year-old Jude and Noah are twins, but also polar opposites. Jude is popular, outgoing and adventurous, where Noah is shy, introverted, and deeply weird . He is also in the closet. But despite their differences they are like two halves of the same person, both smart and creative. Three years later, the twins are unrecognizable. Noah is normal and socially competent, and Jude has withdrawn into herself, dressing in baggy clothes and shunning social interaction. They are also barely speaking to one another. Told in alternating perspectives, Jude and Noah relate how their family and their bond broke, and the secrets they are keeping from one another that prevent them from repairing their relationship. Poet Jandy Nelson has a beautiful way with words that translates into fluid prose and striking imagery. I’ll Give You the Sun is a dazzling, exuberant work of fiction full of art and passion, jealousy and loss.

Categories: Young Adult, LGBT

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

ISBN 9781250037756

Cover image for Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin SloanWhen the recession shuts down his San Francisco start-up, Clay Jannon finds himself working the night shift at a peculiar 24-hour bookstore. Not only are customers few and far between on the night shift, but they come in not to buy books, but to borrow them, from a special collection Clay is forbidden to read, but must carefully track in a log book. When Clay tries to digitize the process, he  accidentally cracks a centuries old code with his computer and a sense of humour. With the help of a couple of techie friends, Clay turns the power of the digital age on the mystery behind the secret code hoping to succeed where others have failed. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is  humourous mystery with something for both book-lovers and tech geeks alike. Robin Sloan has written a novel that both embodies the anxieties of the digital age, and shows digital and manual technologies working alongside one another.

Categories: Mystery, Humour

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

ISBN 9780316213103

Cover image for The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly BlackA raging epidemic of vampirism has swept across the world like wildfire, contained only by the invention of Coldtowns, government-run ghettos that are home to vampires and infected humans alike. Anyone can go into a Coldtown, but it is almost impossible to get back out. Inside Coldtowns, the most powerful vampires are internet reality stars, streaming a facade of decadence to the world that draws in human acolytes and misfits. The reality is much darker, as Tana finds out for herself when she and her ex-boyfriend, Aidan, are potentially infected at a party, and she turns them both in. Holly Black tackles the vampire novel with dark humour and a willingness to skewer tropes at every turn, while also acknowledging her debt to her forerunners. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is both a reimagining of the vampire novel, and a tribute to the classics of the genre.

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy

That’s it for me! What were your favourite fiction reads of 2014?

I’ll Give You the Sun

Cover image for I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelsonby Jandy Nelson

ISBN 978-0-8037-3496-8

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Annual 2014. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.

“Every time Grandma S. read Jude’s and my palms, she’d tell us that we have enough jealousy in our lines to ruin our lives ten times over. I know she’s right about this. When I draw Jude and me with see-through skin, there are always rattlesnakes in our bellies. I only have a few. Jude had seventeen at last count.”

At thirteen, Jude and her brother Noah are the kind of incredibly close twins you only read about in books, seeming to share one soul, and a mutual empathy that defies logic. Noah is introspective, and artistic, and desperately, madly in love with the boy next door. Jude is wild and adventurous, and brave enough for the both of them. But all that is about to change, as rivalry and tragedy transform their relationship. Three years later, the twins are hardly recognizable as their younger selves. Noah has given up art and taken up sports, becoming the son his father always wanted. Jude has disappeared into a uniform of hoodies and baggy jeans, striving for invisibility where she once demanded to be seen. They are barely speaking to one another, and that seems unlikely to change, when Jude’s near-expulsion from school brings her a new mentor who gives her the means to express what she has been holding inside for so long.

I’ll Give You the Sun is told in alternating perspectives, with Noah conveying the early part of the story, and Jude taking over the later years. Jandy Nelson uses this technique to full effect, maintaining suspense by choosing to change streams at the most wrenching moments, although the chapters are a little long. Each twin only knows part of what has brought them to this impasse, but the depth of the connection between the two halves of the story only becomes apparent as the plot slowly progresses. Each twin has their own unique voice, but Jude is slightly easier to relate to, perhaps because we can see how she came to be so broken. With Noah, it is necessary to simply accept weirdness as his natural state of being. Time and circumstances cause the twins to trade places so that Noah, once the outcast, is the seemingly normal one, and Jude, once popular, is now a misfit by choice. However, instead of cultivating empathy for one another, this simply drives them further apart.

Jandy Nelson has an amazing way with words, and it is absolutely no surprise that she is also a poet. Her imagery is particularly outstanding, and conveys a huge amount of emotion in small packages:

“I sneak a glance at Jude. I can tell she’s crumpled up in a corner of herself, just like I do in emergencies. There’s a crawlspace in me that no one can get to, no matter what. I had no idea she had one, too.”

 Some of these images are slipped into the regular course of the narration, but others are part of the twins’ unique perspectives. Noah always sees the world through an artist’s eyes. He titles moments in time, such as “Self Portrait: Noah Eating Gray Apples on Gray Grass,” and “Landscape: When God Paints Outside the Lines.” Jude on the other hand, is governed by her grandmother’s superstitions: “What someone says to you right before they die will come true,” and “As long as a man has a lock of your hair on your person, you will be in his heart.” It takes nothing less than a wordsmith to pull of global warming as a metaphor for love, but Nelson manages that, too, when Jude finds her “boy boycott” threatened by Oscar, a damaged English boy three years her senior, who seems to be able to melt all her defenses.

Although the plot can be heavy and emotionally intense, the story progresses towards a happy and hopeful ending, and one that conveys a real sense of growth for the two main characters. The plot is ostensibly about putting their relationship back to the way it was, it really ends up being about building a newer, healthier family dynamic. This book is a dazzling, exuberant work of fiction full of art and passion, jealousy and loss.


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