“I am really not a girl to fall in love with. For one thing, I don’t like temporary, nonprovable things, and romantic love is both temporary and nonprovable.”
Those are the words of 17-year-old Natasha Kingsley, queen of reason – a concept that cannot easily explain how she feels about a boy she’s known for just a few hours. His name is Daniel Jae Ho Bae, and he’s a poet, a lover, the kind of person who’s considered that love at first sight (or at least, second sight) might be real. So when he crosses paths with Natasha in a vinyl record shop on the bustling streets of Manhattan, he no longer ponders if love at first sight was real – he’s sure of it. But as lovely an autumn day it is in New York City – the ideal backdrop for spontaneously meeting The One – Natasha has no time for romance, especially because “avoiding deportation from the United States of America within the next 24 hours” is right at the top of her to-do list. In a wistfully profound, one-day plotline, Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star follows the intertwined lives of both pragmatic Natasha and poetic Daniel as they race against the consequences of reality.
Let’s get one thing out of the way – The Sun is Also a Star is a second novel, released just two years after Yoon’s breakout with Everything, Everything. In fact, the 2014 debut is what launched Yoon, a self-proclaimed math nerd, into full-time writing from the snoozefest of database programming. Called “gorgeous and lyrical” by the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Everything, Everything was, in numerous ways, the refreshing book that contemporary YA needed.
Its romantic, coming-of-age narrative not only surrounded a woman of color (Maddy, the protagonist, was ethnically mixed Asian and African American), but did so smoothly. Yoon’s portrayal of racial diversity was not obnoxiously political, but rather it was representative of our cultural reality. Indeed, the genuine, diverse characters are what made the book’s arguably histrionic plotline – a girl allergic to everything on Earth, trapped inside her home for over 17 years – unforgettable. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, Everything, Everything became a YA gem of vast and deserving popularity, and Yoon was left with an inestimable amount of expectations to fulfill with the release of another work.
However, with The Sun is Also a Star, Yoon seems to mock the idea of sophomore slump, and those familiar with Everything, Everything will quickly notice that both novels are of great beauty and depth – a rare combination to stumble upon in the stacks of contemporary YA. Too often, authors sacrifice heartfelt romance for the thrill of legitimate adventure, or vice versa – glancing over the safe, formulaic plotlines of endearing bestsellers by the likes of Sarah Dessen or Deb Caletti can make even the most hopeless romantics fall asleep in the bookstore. But Yoon’s genius is that she does not trade love for life, or creativity for relatability. This un-compromise was demonstrated in the story arc of Everything, Everything, and even more so in that of The Sun is Also a Star. Reading Yoon is not a single experience, neighborhood or point-of-view. First-person perspectives alternate from a Jamaican-born, America-raised girl to a first-generation Korean American boy, to the everyday folks they encounter on the streets of Midtown and Harlem. Most notably, plot devices pertaining to immigration – undocumented immigration in particular – are still relatively unexplored in contemporary YA, despite the reality of U.S. immigration law reform and the discussions surrounding it. Yes, most of Yoon’s audience will most likely not face issues like deportation and expired visas; but, in a nation like the U.S. – powered by the strength of immigrants old and young – there are certainly readers who identify with the totality of Natasha’s story, perhaps even to its very end.
Moreover, there are Daniel’s artistic dilemmas, which, in combination with Natasha’s personality, interestingly defy the stereotype of pitting genders against one another on a faulty basis of logic versus emotion. In The Sun is Also a Star, Natasha’s love for science and hard evidence humorously contrasts Daniel’s faith in frequently irrational convictions. Indeed, Yoon’s dynamic protagonists provide readers with a familiar ground, and it’s this understanding that keeps everyone dutifully returning for more, despite the arguable sappiness of two teenagers falling in love in less than 24 hours. Natasha and Daniel’s romance is so genuine, endearing and delightfully adolescent that it’s difficult to be frustrated with the quickness of it all — in the end, readers will be overwhelmed with desire for things to work out for the couple. And if you find yourself already wondering about the fate of Yoon’s latest, most brilliant creations yet, then I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of The Sun is Also a Star.
The Sun is a Also a Star can be found at all booksellers.