This young adult novel has one of the most fascinating and downright devilish structures I’ve encountered in fiction. It’s told in alternating points of view, first by Noah and then by his twin sister Jude; what makes it so excruciating is that Noah’s story is told from his 13-14 year old vantage point, while Jude’s is told when they’re 16. And in the intervening years, everything has gone horribly, horribly wrong and we don’t yet know why.
In Jude’s narrative, she and Noah have basically switched personalities. The once fearless, popular surfer girl who scared her mother with her lipstick and short skirts has become a superstitious germaphobe who makes herself look as ugly as possible. Noah, who in his story was an impassioned artist, a bullied outsider, and secretly gay, has given up his art and is now in the popular clique with a girlfriend. Finding out what happened made this a compulsive read. (Interestingly, as you read on it also turns out that things haven’t always gone quite as wrong as they appeared, because neither Jude nor Noah is aware of the whole truth and so neither is a reliable narrator.)
I had a little trouble with this at first, because I sympathized so strongly with Noah, that when Jude’s story came along, I kind of hated her. It’s unfair: both of them made huge mistakes, both betrayed each other, both have suffered greatly. Yet I found it much harder to care about what Jude was going through, and I found her romance sappy and unconvincing; Noah’s more plausible story seems to get comparatively short shrift. This feeling on my part is ironic, since the whole story is about how destructive their jealousy is to their love for each other.
Despite not liking some aspects, I found it an amazing, shattering story to read and highly recommend it. The language is just gorgeous (though each narrator has something of a verbal tic/schtick) and the story is unforgettable.