Am I my brother’s [secret] keeper?

The end of “I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson holds one of the most impactful twists of fate in literature. The book spent 300 pages explaining and building up the relationships between the protagonists and with the world around them only to take it away in the span of twenty pages as she fully reveals the consequences of their choices found back on page one.

The story begins from the perspective of honest and sincere 13-year-old Noah. It chronicles the relationship he and his sister Jude have and their relationship with their mother. The other half of the book is from the perspective of Jude years in the future after she has applied and been admitted into art school. Her relationship with her twin brother Noah is immensely strained after the uniting force that was their mother passed away in an accident.

The tone shift is obvious. The younger years are coated in shades of yellow, innocence, and hope for the future. The older years when the twins are 16 emphasize dark shades of the world. Jude even wears dark clothing through most of the second half. The brilliance of the final few pages is the novel compromises both world views into a subtle gray. The world isn’t as dark as Jude had seen it, but it also isn’t as picture-perfect as it was when they were kids. After all, a majority of the second half of the novel is focused on secrets and how those secrets tear families and individuals apart externally and internally.

The largest of these secrets is that Noah is at fault for their mother’s accident after finding out about an affair she was having with the man Jude sought out to be her mentor years later. Jude, being the main character, is not free from guilt as she threw out Noah’s application to art school afraid she would lose her spot to him. Both characters were at a crossroads. To admit their guilt or come clean. They refuse to admit to what they did which leads to much of the conflict between Jude and Noah.

This choice was the wrong one and that is made quite clear early on. Noah’s dad suffers in an almost fugue state after Noah tells him that she died loving him and wasn’t planning on leaving him even though in reality she was headed to divorce Noah’s father. Jude rarely talks to her brother, the brother she used to be immensely close to, and the one she gave the sun to because of the guilt that eats away at her.

By the end of the novel they are forced to confront their ghosts and for the first time since their mother died by completely honest with each other. After they make that decision they begin the road to fixing their relationship with each other and the people who care about them who were looking through the looking glass as the twins had to struggle alone. The end of the novel showcases what the choice should have been after their mother died. It wasn’t just honesty, it was reaching out for help and support. Both characters chose to instead stay in their heads and chose deception to such a degree they lost a bit of themselves in it. Noah and Jude spend their time trying to bite their guilt down only to hurt themselves and each other.

The world isn’t fixed in a night nor are the twin’s worldview. But the world doesn’t look as dark as it did and sometimes that’s all that’s needed. They take the first steps towards the best choice, in spite of how difficult it was to reach.

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