The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Published by Delacorte Press on November 1, 2016
Genres: [Young Adult] Contemporary
Format: ARC, paperback
4 Stars, Completed November 6, 2016
– SPOILER free –
Gosh, I adored this book so much.
The Sun is Also a Star is a story about two teenagers, living very different lives, that happen to meet. Natasha is a girl that has solely relied on her knowledge of science and facts. When her father carelessly exposes their family of being undocumented immigrants, Natasha finds that she has to leave the “land of opportunity” and return back to the place she was born, Jamaica. But she can hardly view the island as her home since she hasn’t lived there since she was a young girl. She feels more American than anything. Then there’s Daniel. He has always been the good son-the one that has made the good grades, proudly kept his Korean roots, and met his parents expectations. So when his brother receives a suspension from an ivy league college, all the more pressure is put onto Daniel to redeem and save face for the family. However, deep down, Daniel knows he doesn’t really want to be a doctor but rather a poet. So when Natasha and Daniel encounter each other to say that they have an instant connection is too unrealistic. But both find that this serendipitous meeting and the company of the other is exactly the distraction they need in their lives at that moment.
There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.
I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m experiencing right now. The only slight (possibly insurmountable) problem is that I’m pretty sure that Natasha is not.
Nicola Yoon has done it again! Only she would be able to make instalove work in fiction. The instalove is certainly there (with both this book and Yoon’s debut, Everything, Everything), yet the romance is still effortlessly crafted without being too dramatic and the quick attraction between the characters is forgivable, in my opinion. I can’t quite explain it, but personally I find that Yoon manages to make instalove work and not appear ridiculous (as other scenarios displayed in YA fiction).
Besides the fact that I’m being deported today, I am really not a girl to fall in love with. For one thing, I don’t like temporary, non provable things, and romantic love is both temporary and non provable.
Natasha is a character that readers can empathize with, whether it be her anxiety with the uncertainty of her future, her bitterness towards one of her parents, her logical way of thinking, or just her lack of belief and skepticism towards love.
When Natasha thinks about love, this is what she thinks: nothing lasts forever. Like hydrogen-7 or lithium-5 or boron-7, love has an infinitesimally small half-life that decays to nothing. And when it’s gone, it’s like it was never there at all.
Interestingly, Natasha’s perspective and analysis on life is purely based off of facts. With her chapters, science is often discussed, which was something I could appreciate and understand seeing as I was a STEM student in my undergraduate years. It was refreshing to have this aspect of the book researched and done so well. And it isn’t at all utilized to be overwhelming or tedious.
I also felt a great connection to Daniel. The pressures, concerns, and anxieties he shares are common among many first generation Asian Americans. Personally, I grew up with a really supportive dad that allowed me to have the freedom of choosing whatever career and future I desired, but I had many friends that didn’t-and still don’t-have that luxury. I thought Yoon did an exceptional job with creating Daniel’s character and background in that aspect. She also hit the nail on the head with her accurate representation of Asian American culture.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry about my family.”
I nod, because the feel of his heartbeat is doing funny things to my vocal cords.
“I’m sorry about everything, about the whole history of the world and all its racism and the unfairness of all of it.”
“What are you even saying? It’s not your fault. You can’t apologize for racism.”
“I can and I do.”
“You’re not your dad,” I say, but he doesn’t believe me. I understand his fear. Who are we if not a product of our parents and their histories?
And The Sun is Also a Star presented a community with racism and discrimination in a subtle manner that portrayed today’s society quite realistically. The fact that Daniel’s parents wouldn’t be okay with him dating a non-Asian and downright against him dating a black girl is not that hard to believe as much as I wish it was. I can’t speak for all, but I know of many families where the more traditional and strict elders expect and want their kids, grandkids, and descendants to marry within their race. In a way, this is a form of implicit racism that is rarely talked about. And I’m so thankful Yoon made a point of this in several scenes, because it’s certainly a challenge I believe interracial couples may face. I also really liked that this incorporated these important, thought provoking themes, but that they weren’t the major focus that this’d be considered YA African American and Afro Caribbean literature.
In addition, I’m impressed that both characters defies stereotypes (both racial and gender). Daniel is the poet and romantic, while Natasha is the scholar and logical one of the two.
Also, I can’t be the only one that noticed small parallels between the two main roles and Yoon’s personal life. I’m aware this isn’t a quasi memoir or anything, but I did find some similarities: Like the fact that Natasha and Daniel share the first letters as Nicola Yoon and her husband, David Yoon. Or that Natasha grew up in Jamaica (like Yoon) and Daniel’s Korean American (like Yoon’s husband). Not to mention, the book is set up in New York, another place Yoon is familiar with since she has lived there. And lastly, Natasha enjoys karaoke but is a terrible singer just like Yoon apparently (I promise I’m not being presumptuous-those were totally Yoon’s words).
Speaking of the norebang (karaoke session), this book takes place in an extremely short time span (12 hours to be exact) but this type of setting and timeline appealed to me. (Granted, I do tend to enjoy such books though, like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and You Know Me Well.) However, what I couldn’t overlook and was slightly confused by was the formatting of the chapters. It’s not a back-and-forth split perspective between Natasha and Daniel as I thought it’d be, but rather a switch of different narrators and sometimes histories of certain objects, theories, and people. There were some that I thought fit well and added to the story (the history of the side characters), while other interludes left me wondering if their contribution were necessary (the history of some of the objects/conjectures). One of my favorite parts about Everything, Everything were the clever arrangement and use of vignettes, but I must confess that I wasn’t as impressed with the way the short chapters were constructed in this one. This is the only reason behind why I’ve deducted a star from what would have otherwise been a perfect rating. Though, it could just be me that thought there was a lack of flow and cohesion in the narrative.
So despite all my praise I can see why The Sun is Also a Star wouldn’t be a perfect read for some. Those that absolutely despise instalove (and find that there’s no way around such instant, unrealistic relationships), don’t enjoy short (and slightly less cohesive) chapters, and find books set in a small span of time unappealing, should feel free to still pick up this book (because I think it’s worth it) but I’d advise to go into it with lower expectations considering that this standalone includes all three of those factors.
Upon closing the book after the last page, I think I let out a tiny sigh of relief for I was so glad that the story lived up to the incredible cover. The Sun is Also a Star was a lovely romance that made me swoon and ship two sweet characters, but more importantly it included a handful of important messages that are beneficial reminders to all readers: always be true to yourself; often times unexpected misfortunes can lead to better things; life is unpredictable, and sometimes it’s just about meeting the right person at the right place at the right time.
Quotes were taken from an uncorrected advance readers copy.
Thank you Delecorte Press for the opportunity to read and review The Sun is Also a Star. In no way did this affect my reading experience and honest review.
Oh and here’s a cool behind the scenes video on how the cover was created: