Noah and Jude are twins, individuals but connected in so many ways; they’re NoahandJude, practically inseparable — until everything changes the summer they turn 14. That’s when Jude becomes “wild,” chasing after boys and popularity. Noah retreats into his own world until a new boy shows up next door. That summer, Noah and Jude “divide” their parents, each believing one loves them “better,” and constantly vie for the other parent’s attention and love. On top of that, they are fiercely competing to get into the local prestigious art high school. They’re a mess.
Two years later, things aren’t much better. Jude made it into the school; Noah (who was arguably the better artist) did not. They’re dealing with the aftermath of their mother’s fatal accident. They harbor secrets. And they’re no longer NoahandJude. They’re not even Noah and Jude. They’re two separate planets who exist in the same plane, but never, ever interact. It’s different from what it was before, but no better.
On top of that, Jude has begun seeing the ghosts of her grandmother and mother.
Everyone in this book is a Tortured Soul Needing Redemption. Thankfully, they do find it through Guillermo — the Hispanic mystical guide who helps Jude, and eventually Noah, find peace. While Guillermo is the most interesting character, his role in the book is to cause a change in the white people around him. He is Passionate Lover, he is Father Figure, he is Spiritual Guide. And sometimes he is a living-breathing person, but those times are, unfortunately, rare.
What saved this book from being Truly Horrible was the writing — Nelson paints the world vividly, and I do have to admit that there is good chemistry between Jude and her Soul Mate, even if that’s a trite trope. But what I really loved was the art. I loved Guillermo’s giant sculptures and the way Nelson depicted the process of art. I loved Noah’s chapters and the way he’d come up with paintings for everything. I loved how Jude considered fashion an art.
In the end, I respected what Nelson was trying to do. But it’s not a perfect book by any means.
Rated: High for teen drinking, a (non-graphic) rape scene, and several f-bombs.