Today we welcome Senior Editor Jessica Garrison to Penguin Teen Behind the Book! She’s here to talk about all of the many things that make Jandy Nelson so special to Penguin, which is a relief because it’s hard work listing out so many reasons (they’re pretty much unending). Jessica reminds us of the number one quality editors should have - they should really, really love the books they publish.
First, I read THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE.
I read Jandy Nelson’s debut not as an editor, though—she had a different editor back then. I read it as a reader. And to say I was blown away is an understatement. So when her editor left and I had the good fortune to work with Jandy directly, it wasn’t a matter of whether I’d publish her second book, but a matter of when, and what kind of amazing it would be.
I was not disappointed.
The first time I read I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, Jandy’s second novel, I forgot to edit it. I read ravenously and laughingly and with a whole lot of Kleenex. I gulped the story down. Noah’s first section left me out of breath. Jude’s first section left me brokenhearted. Both of them—twins: a boy, a girl—carried me utterly away. And here’s why:
I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is a soaring, pinwheeling, forget-where-you-are, steal-your-breath, feel-it-in-your-bones transcendent, transporting whirlwind. It’s the kind of novel that makes you cry through the happy parts as much as the sad parts for the sheer depth of feeling, sheer aliveness of its characters, sheer boldness of its telling. Reading it, I had the same falling-headlong feeling, the same zap of recognition I’d had at eighteen when I read Francesca Lia Block’s WEETZIE BAT. This is the kind of novel that stays with you, that you read over and over again. As an editor, it’s the kind of novel you wish for. As a reader, the same. It’s the kind of novel that lasts.
The voices here are the voices of two teen fraternal twins, one a boy, one a girl, telling their stories from two different, crucial points in time—one from before the event that changed their lives and one from after. Both are magical, visceral, pop-off-the-page voices—so hard to find. To do justice to these siblings, Jandy essentially wrote one novel, then another novel, and then wove those two novels together to create a third, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN. No wonder it took her four years.
It was THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE that brought me to Jandy Nelson, and I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN that will make me stay with her. What this novel accomplishes is raw and rare, and it will change some readers’ lives. Is it too much to say that I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN redefines the boundaries of what makes a YA novel YA? Nah, I’d say that’s just about right on target.
- Jessica Garrison, Senior Editor, Dial Books