Today I’m going to be talking about Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun.
You have to read this book.
“Heroes endure because we need them. Not for their own sakes.”
I finished The Mortal Instruments series a couple of months ago, and while I most certainly enjoyed it, it definitely had its highs and lows, a mix of 3, 4, and 5-star moments. I put off reading The Infernal Devices because I thought my experience would be the same.
I was wrong.
“You and I, we’re alike. We live and breathe words. It was books that kept me from taking my own life after I thought I could never love anyone, never be loved by anyone again. It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone.”
I loved these books.
They were more well-written, more well-plotted, the setting more richly-imagined, with the characters more finely-drawn. They surprised me, had me looking forward to waking up each day so I could start reading, had me fighting sleep every night so I could keep reading.
“It is the only way any of this can ever mean anything. Otherwise it is only—”
“Pointless, needless suffering and pain? I don’t suppose it would help if I told you that is the way life is. The good suffer, the evil flourish, and all that is mortal passes away.”
The Infernal Devices is a prequel trilogy to the Mortal Instruments. It takes place in Victorian London, and tells of the demon-hunting ancestors of characters I’d already come to know, with a few (immortal) characters actually appearing in both sets of books. The basic plot set-up is similar: girl with no knowledge of the supernatural world is suddenly thrown into danger, she learns of her mysterious heritage while helping to fight demons, and along the way meets a cute boy.
“And I came to see that I could not bring someone home when they were already there.”
The real draw to this series, of course, is the thing all my favorite books have in common: well-written characters.
“You cannot buy or drug or dream your way out of pain.”
The secondary characters were all fine and good, but Will, Tessa, and Jem absolutely captured my heart. Their relationships were so perfectly constructed. I will always, always, prefer relationships that start as friendships, the long and drawn out sexual tension, to be culminated in some beautifully-written scenes where … but I don’t want to spoil them for you.
Spoilers after the jump…
As a writer, I’m constantly asked: “Where do you get your ideas?”
I can’t say where my ideas come from. From life, from other stories, from the interests I’ve naturally developed over time … They start out as a vague idea (nostalgia!) and then develop out from there (a teenage girl, World War II, a chateau with secrets…) Most of the time I just have bunches of ideas that only get fleshed out as I write (I’m not an outliner).
In the beginning, I like to collect quotes that inspire me and have something to do with the theme and tone of the book I’m trying to write. Does anyone else do that? So I thought it would be fun to share the quotes I currently have at the top of my Word document work-in-progress. See if you can guess where they’re from:
1. “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
2. “Over time, the ghosts of things that happened start to turn distant; once they’ve cut you a couple of million times, their edges blunt on your scar tissue, they wear thin. The ones that slice like razors forever are the ghosts of things that never got the chance to happen.”
3. “You can throw yourself away, missing what you’ve lost.”
4. “But don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”
5. “All of them, all except Phineas, constructed at infinite cost to themselves these Maginot Lines against this enemy they thought they saw across the frontier, this enemy who never attacked that way—if he ever attacked at all; if he was indeed the enemy.”
6. “The point was for one place in their lives to be impregnable. For just one kind of love to be stronger than any outside thing; to be safe.”
7. “Does such a thing as ‘the fatal flaw,’ that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn’t. Now I think it does.”
8. “I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell.”
9. “They know that tragedy is not glamorous. They know it doesn’t play out in life as it does on a stage or between the pages of a book. It is neither a punishment meted out nor a lesson conferred. Its horrors are not attributable to one single person. Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing. That is what the children know.”
(Answers below. Photo found here.)
As everyone else bitches about the cold, I’m really trying to savor winter, despite the fact I don’t live in a place as lovely as this. Staying in and writing, drinking hot toddies, bundling up in scarves, watching snow fall–is anyone else with me?
Here are some things that made my week:
1. This chart of how old best-selling authors were when they “broke out” is helping me feel loads better about my (non-)burgeoning career.
2. A teenager’s view on social media. So, so interesting and helpful, especially for those of us who are writing for teens. (Although this is the reason I set all my stories in the ’90s/early ’00s–social media changed everything.)
3. When I’m seeking inspiration, I always go back to stories that have blown me away. Those stories are not always in the form of books. Last night I rewatched a couple of Buffy episodes, and started sobbing, as always, at one of the most beautiful speeches in TV show history:
“I’ve been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I’ve seen things you couldn’t imagine, and done things I’d prefer you didn’t. I don’t exactly have a reputation for being a thinker; I follow my blood, which doesn’t exactly rush in the direction of my brain. So I make a lot of mistakes. A lot of wrong bloody calls. A hundred plus years, and there’s only one thing I’ve ever been sure of. You.
Hey, look at me. I’m not asking you for anything. When I say I love you, it’s not because I want you, or because I can’t have you–it has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try… I’ve seen your kindness, and your strength. I’ve seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You’re a hell of a woman.”
Have a wonderful wintry, inspiring weekend!
Photo found here.