The Intro/First Impressions:
Nicola Yoon has been on my radar for quite a while — at least, her name has been. I’d heard about Everything, Everything a while ago and immediately wanted to read it, mostly because, if I’m being honest, I’m twice as likely to read a YA book if it’s written by a POC (which she is) than not. But then 2016 got… rough. I stopped reading for a long while and completely lost touch with everything going on in the YA world until I got The Sun Is Also A Star for Christmas.
And then I learned that Nicola Yoon is like a pretty big YA author now and that book I’d shelved for later? It’s actually being made into a movie because it was apparently amazing. And this book, her second book? All the reviews were glowing.
You know how sometimes you read a book’s summary and you’re just sure you’re going to love it? Well, this book — which features two POC protagonists, deals with immigration, first love, and navigating the often difficult and murky waters of family expectations vs. personal dreams, fate, science, and the universe — this book certainly seemed like that for me. And it’s because of this that I decided to make it my first read of 2017.
One of the things I really appreciated with this book was the format. It’s told in first person and switches between the perspectives of our two protagonists, Natasha and Daniel. This is a pretty common format for a story, but Yoon changes it up a bit by also giving a voice to minor characters. Almost every character mentioned in this story, even if they are only mentioned once, also has a page or two dedicated to their own “histories.” With this change, we no longer have characters presented to us only from the main characters’ equally limited views. Instead, this extra glimpse of information gives depth even to the side characters, making the world of the novel seem bigger, more rounded and realistic. It also helps tie specific events together throughout the rest of the story. We as readers get a chance to see not only how these events play out, but also understand why, just by getting a fuller picture of the lives that intersect with our protagonists.
Yoon does the same with words, histories, concepts and more as they are introduced in the book. For example, readers are presented with a fuller understanding of the Jamaican word and concept of irie, the reason behind so many Koreans owning black hair shops (something I’d also been curious about), and more. All of this together gives The Sun Is Also A Star more depth than many other contemporary romance YA novels I’ve read, and I love that, and believe we need more of it.
Other positives – the characters. They are wonderfully fleshed out and annoyed me and charmed me in waves, which is a good thing. I wouldn’t say they were my favorite characters I’ve ever read about, but I liked reading about them and could even see some of myself in both of them. I felt equally as understanding of Natasha’s cynicism and love of science and the facts as I was of Daniel’s dreamer-like optimism, passion and love of poetry.
It was rewarding having a YA book not only from the perspective of one, but two POC characters. Natasha is Jamaican, and Daniel is Korean-American, and I loved learning about these two cultures which are very different from my own, especially as it pertains to the immigrant experience. While Natasha is a Jamaican born, undocumented immigrant living in the US with her family, Daniel is an American born Korean living with his immigrant parents, and both of these factors shape their in-home experiences, and their identities in ways that are apparent while reading.
Now, what I didn’t especially like: the romance. I think it was something I could take or leave. I do not like the insta-love trope in many YAs and I just can’t quite bring myself to believe in love at first sight (I guess I’m just too cynical at heart… whoops). Given that this novel takes place over the course of a day, there’s not really any way to avoid either of these things. I will say, sometimes I was able to suspend my disbelief and buy into their immense and immediate attraction for each other (Yoon’s writing is just that good), but other times it just seemed a little put on. Daniel’s claims about them being ‘meant to be’, and the electricity between them when they kiss, touch, etc. was a bit much (and okay, I’m not positive electricity was the word used, but… that’s sort of the impression I got, so I’m going with it).
I will say I do think the romance would have worked better, had it taken place over a more extended period of time. Because I think Natasha and Daniel were a good match for one another (and how many black/Asian romances are there in the YA market now? seriously, we need more!) and I would have liked to see their relationship develop and grow. I just don’t know if I believe you can meet someone at 10am and be completely and utterly in love with them by 10pm (unless, of course, you’re two people at a desperate point in your life — let’s say about to be deported on one end, and choosing between what you want and what your parents want on the the other end — and this love develops as a way for you to cope and make it through these events… hmmm, all right, I see you Ms. Yoon).
No spoilers, but I loved the ending, which took a turn I didn’t expect it, and was a bit of a game-changer for me, regarding the above. But that’s all I’ll say.
Read this book. It really is very good. The writing is solid, the story is unique and even if you’re a cynical-romantic like I am, I believe wholeheartedly that the ending will touch you like it did me (did I shed a tear or two perhaps? I’ll never tell!… just kidding, I did).
It deals with with some topics typical in YA, but through perspectives not so typical. And it also covers topics (immigration, race relations between two non-white groups, etc.) not typically in YA that I think you will enjoy.
My Rating: 4/5
Please comment below and let me know your thoughts! Did you like this book? If so, did you like similar things? Or something else I didn’t mention? And if not, what about it didn’t work for you? Let me know and let’s discuss. 🙂