Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
I read this at the end of August and finished around early September and since then, I’ve tried to write this review multiple times but have failed to condense my thoughts on this beautiful book eloquently into a readable post.
“You have to see the miracles for there to be miracles.”
Told in a dual point of view of a 13 year old Noah and a 16 year old Jude, this is basically the story of their lives over the course of three years. The concept of having one twin narrate the tale in the past and one in the present really made the writing very special. Both, though at different times, experiencing different things, are unknowingly telling the same story. How both past and present intertwined at the end of the book was wonderful.
The book begins in Noah’s point of view and right from the first page, I was hooked. I loved Noah’s character so much. He embraced that he was different and celebrated it, he didn’t care about fitting in. He has such an artistic mind and paints these mind pictures of the things and people he’s surrounded by so reading in his point of view was very unique. Jude too, has her quirks – believing in her late grandmother’s book full of nonsensical rules, talking to ghosts of her lost family members. I was very impressed by Jandy Nelson being able to give both characters distinct narrative voices while talking about similar things, I could always tell if it was a Jude or a Noah chapter.
Something that I found quite interesting and also rather sad was that their roles sort of reversed over the years. When you read 13 year old Noah’s chapters, he’s a shy introvert and Jude is the more outgoing one but in 16 year old Jude’s chapters, she’s become the misfit and Noah is the more popular one. The contrast between the two time periods is very striking and is a strong factor to making this story very unique.
Being a very character driven story, it’s important to have a connection to the characters. And I did. I don’t know what it was about both Jude and Noah, I haven’t been in situations like the ones they were in, but I felt this strong connection with everything they were saying and doing. I felt like I really understood them and how they reacted to certain situations. They felt so real to me, with very human emotions of rage and sadness, that I empathized with. Even the side characters like Brian, Oscar, Guiellermo and their parents, all had significant parts in the story. Every single character has so much depth and Nelson portrayed that fantastically.
“We wish with our hands, that’s what we do as artists.”
Moving on to the actual plot of the story – it was not anything unique, I will admit. But the themes of art, love and jealousy make the story unique. Being an art centered novel, I loved how the pages of the book were splattered – it added something extra to the overall aesthetic of the book. It was really refreshing to read a book like this which focused on familial love more than romantic love. This book is primarily about the twins and their love and the tragedy that drove them apart and how they reconciled. Though both Brian and Jude have romantic relationships, it doesn’t overpower the main theme. I also really enjoyed that jealousy was a major part of the story. It was just so realistic in some elements like that, making it such a special story.
Ultimately, whether you enjoy this book or not comes down to it’s writing. It is very purple at some points but I personally loved it. With sentences like:
“Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you’ve been in before – you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”
“I love you,” I say to him, only it comes out, “Hey.”
“So damn much,” he says back, only it comes out, “Dude.”
He still won’t meet my eyes.”
“Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people,” I say. “Maybe we’re accumulating these new selves all the time.” Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things.”
I loved her writing throughout the story. There are so many quotable moments and if I list them all out here I’ll be infringing copyright because it’ll be most of the book!
I recommend that everyone reads this because it’s beautifully written and a very special read. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year and one of my all time favourites.