Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Hope is the thing with feathers":The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I read Nicola Yoon's new YA novel in one evening. I had enjoyed her first novel, Everything, Everything; Yoon's second novel The Sun is Also a Star is even better.

First, I will admit that a story only about teenagers falling in love won't catch my interest. I'm not a hopeless romantic, and my teenage days date to the 1960s. But for those readers who love a good love story, Yoon delivers.

What I adore about The Sun is Also a Star is how Yoon combines a good love story, vivid characters with complex families and backgrounds, philosophical discussions on the nature of love, science, and human nature, and social commentary.

Daniel: "I think we are all connected, everyone on earth." Natasha:" Even the bad people?" Daniel: "Yes. But everyone has at least a little good in them...I think all the good parts of us are connected at some level....I think that's God. God is the connection of the very best parts of us." 

The Sun is Also a Star brings together, seemingly randomly, two high school seniors and depicts their one day together as they slowly reveal who they are and fall in love. Everything they do impacts other people, changing their lives as well.

Daniel is the son of South Korean immigrants who expect him to use his American opportunities to earn a high profile career and big income. At heart, Daniel is a poet. Natasha and her family are illegal aliens from Jamaica; her family is ordered to leave the country that day. Natasha holds to science and objectivity, distrusting romance and sentiment. Daniel falls for Natasha and spends the day convincing her to love him.

As we learn about the characters and their families we also learn about the realities of immigrant life, the feelings of displacement and hard cultural adjustment. A chapter on Korean American History explains the history of how South Koreans became experts in African American hair care. Daniel's brother desperately wants to be 'American' and rejects his heritage and his family in the process. Natasha's father came to America to act, and he has a remarkable ability but his thick accent precludes his advancement. His family lives in near poverty, Natasha and her nine-year-old brother sharing the living room as their bedroom.

As Daniel and Natasha progress through the stages of new love, even to their first fight and separation, Yoon shares their thoughts in lovely epigrams.

"We tell ourselves there are reasons for the things that happened, but we're just telling ourselves stories. We make them up. They don't mean anything."

"Touching him is like order and chaos, like being assembled and disassembled at the same time."

"Maybe falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself. I like who I am with her."

The lovers struggle with the impact of their families expectations and experiences of racism and class. "Who are we if not a product of our families and their histories?" wonders Natasha. Parents "can't see past their own history," and they want to protect their children by encouraging, or forcing them onto paths for their own good Daniel learns.

 The book has been on the YA bestseller book and won acclaim. For good reason.

I received a free book through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

The Sun is Also a Star
Nicola Yoon
Delacorte Press
$18.99 hard cover
ISBN: 978-0-53349668-0