The Sun Is Also A Star
by Nicola Yoon
Penguin Random House UK Children’s
03 Nov 2016
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher via netgalley.com. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
After her bestseller-turned-movie, „Everything, Everything“, Nicola Yoon has written an enchanting New York love story that reads like a modern fairytale.
Daniel is a Korean-American teenager living in New York City, struggling with his parents‘ ambitions for his life. They want him to go to college and become a doctor or a lawyer. Daniel, instead, wants to become a poet. He (literally) runs into Natasha who, together with her Jamaican family, is facing deportation. Their flight is supposed to leave on the same day, and Natasha is desperate to find a last-minute way to stay in the United States.
Changing back and forth between Daniel’s and Natasha’s POV, interspersed with explanatory „dictionary entries“ and the POVs of different people they meet, Yoon squeezes an epic YA love story into this single day. It is full of fateful coincidences and seemingly insignificant encounters which turn out to be life-changing. Little things that happen to, with and around these two instant lovers prove to be of huge impact. There is the constant feeling of interconnection, of „meant-to-be“, and when, in the end, things come full circle after all, the reader closes the book with a happy sigh – and the realization of having read a fairytale that doesn’t happen in real life.
Daniel and Natasha, on the one hand, are typical teenage fiction characters. They fit into defined molds. Daniel is the dreamer who writes poems in his little notebook, secretly rejecting his parent’s expectations yet not daring to openly rebel against them. He believes in love at first sight, in shooting stars and fate.
Natasha, in a nice upside-down-turn to the usual boy/girl cliché, is driven by logic and believes in science and numbers and facts. She holds a deep grudge against her father, a failed actor, and blames him for their imminent deportation.
These two, as different as they are, find each other, and sparks fly. They follow each other through the day and through New York, lose sight of one another and, with fate clearly intervening, stumble upon each other again. They meet each other’s families, struggle with questions of ethnic identity, expectations and prejudices. Daniel strings Natasha along by means of a questionnaire which, when completed, is supposed to have made them irreversibly fall in love with each other. Natasha is determined to prove him wrong (and, of course, fails hopelessly).
Teenage drama included
Daniel softens Natasha’s factual, unsentimental approach to life. Natasha, in turn, helps the hopeless romantic Daniel touch ground. To a certain degree. After all, this is a YA love story, and there is the appropriate emotional drama and unfathomable depth typical for this genre. The world seems to stand still around these two as they hold hands in the subway or kiss on a rooftop and feel as star-crossed as any teenage couple has ever felt. Plus, with all the side characters whose depressing stories magically get turned around by chance encounters with Daniel and Natasha, this story screams fairytale around every corner.
Better than „Everything, Everything“
Compared with „Everything, Everything“, Daniel and Natasha feel a bit more complex, a tad more interesting. Yoon plays with gender roles, assigning each of them traits and talents usually expected of the opposite sex. Being Jamaican-born herself, Yoon gives Natasha’s complicated sense of identity and association a very authentic feel.
All in all, „The Sun Is Also A Star“ is an incredibly romantic teenage love story touching upon the serious issues of immigration, deportation and what it means to identify as „American“. In the final few pages, just when the reader thinks Yoon gives her own beautiful story a realistic punch in the gut, she turns the whole thing around into a delayed happily-ever-after. Is that a smart decision? It’s not what happens in real life. But it certainly feels good to believe that, once in a while, it does.