I headed to my library a couple of weeks ago to pick up my first Nicola Yoon read, and choose The Sun is Also a Star. I’m also planning to read Everything, Everything before the upcoming movie release, but for now I want to talk about the diversity, love, and equality between the gorgeous covers of The Sun is Also a Star.
About the book: Jamaican Natasha is about to be deported with her family when she meets Korean American Daniel, who’s unsure where he stands between the future he wants for himself and the future his parents expect him to pursue. It’s a big day for both of them, but for some reason they can’t seem to let go of each other. Daniel believes it’s fate, but Natasha only believes in science. Besides, she doesn’t have time to fall in love because she’ll be living in another country in less than twenty-four hours.
“Secretly, in their heart of hearts, almost everyone believes that there’s some meaning, some willfulness to life. Fairness. Basic decency. Good things happen to good people. Bad things only happen to bad people. No one wants to believe that life is random.”
First, let’s look at the layout. The Sun is Also a Star is filled with alternating chapters in Natasha’s and Daniel’s perspectives, mixed in with which are snippets of other characters’ backgrounds and abstract details about culture that tie in with our main characters’ lives and thoughts.
Honestly, the extra sections feel pretty random at times. Some of them, the parts about the main characters’ parents, for instance, pertain to the story. Some of the others feel like informative but probably unnecessary lessons that are tied in to the story with only a few sentences at the end. Some of these sections even say things like “Natasha didn’t know this, but…” which emphasizes the feeling of the section not entirely belonging there. Books with unusual formats are exciting, but the format still needs to have a point. Instead, I felt at times that this book was trying to be too many things at once. Other times, it hit right on the mark.
Next, the diversity of this book is definitely a plus. The main characters come from vastly different backgrounds, and yet they’re so accepting of each other and the other people around them. Equality for the win. Despite how comfortable they are, though, they also make some important observations about equality in general that help the reader keep things in perspective:
“America’s not really a melting pot. It’s more like one of those divided metal plates with separate sections for starch, meat, and veggies.”
The best part about this book is that while the characters are unique and have their own cultures and habits, they’re very relatable people. I think that’s the point, really, of any diverse book–to prove that we’re all the same at the core. We all have fights with our families or friends, we all have dreams or goals, we want to feel like we belong somewhere. Some of the details may be new to some readers, but the emotions are familiar.
“It’s hard to come from someplace or someone you’re not proud of.”
Unfortunately, it’s a very predictable story. Of course the main characters are falling in love when love doesn’t fit into their schedules. There’s no mystery about the romance in this book. The beginning sets up the story. The middle is an exploratory section of what love and equality mean for these characters. And finally in the end we have some answers to the questions we’ve been waiting for since reading the synopsis. I could’ve loved this book so much more if it hadn’t been so predictable.
And yet, it’s an endearing tale.
“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.”
While the romance is heartwarming, I also had some dissatisfaction with the instalove. Daniel’s infatuation-at-first-sight I didn’t mind. What I minded was Natasha being so adamantly against falling in love, and having good reason to be, and then suddenly thinking “this is something big, bigger then anything else, and I can see now that I’ve been wrong all along about love and this is it.” This is not a direct quote, but it’s the gist. It’s such a fast shift, and it comes too early. She seems like a person of strong convictions, and this is where she stands at first:
“We tell ourselves there are reasons for the things that happen, but we’re just telling ourselves stories. We make them up. They don’t mean anything.”
I realize things have to happen fast for a book whose timeline fits inside one day, but with over 300 pages I did expect a more gradual shift in emotion.
Can we also talk about the fact that the epilogue is labeled as “An alternate history”? Part of me is really tortured by the fact that “alternate” means it may not be what really happened; but another part of me–I think a bigger part–loves that it’s left a little uncertain. You never know what will happen. Whether its the universe or science or God or Fate that you believe in, you never know where it’ll lead you.
“Some people exist in your life to make it better. Some people exist to make it worse.”
And they all have a place.
My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars? There’s a lot to love about this book. I had a few small issues with the presentation, but I adored this story and the messages it sends. I appreciated the bittersweet ending, because fiction needs a little bitter and a little sweet to feel closer to reality, and this one truly feels like life. Not my life, but that’s why I read. It keeps me aware. I definitely recommend this one not only for fans of YA contemporary romance, but anyone who’s looking to read a little more diversely this year.
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is another fantastic YA romance full of real-life problems about equality between races and genders, as well as other themes like poverty. Expect to learn a little about the world, but also to fall completely in love with the adventures of Eleanor and Park.
What’s next: Although Rainbow Rowell’s adult romance Landline was next on my TBR, I squished in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists between my TBR novels, and I’ll be sharing some brief thoughts on Adichie’s essay tomorrow. Although even the word “feminism” alone might be enough to turn some readers away, I think this essay is something every human being should read, as it focuses primarily on correcting popular misconceptions about the term “feminism” rather than arguing that women should rule the world, or some such. Check back tomorrow for more info–I’m excited about this one.
Are you planning to read more diversely this year? What are some of the books you’ve picked up already or plan to pick up to diversify your 2017 reads?
The Literary Elephant