The Sun is Also a Star
By Nicola Yoon
Published: November 1, 2016
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
The Sun is Also a Star has been compared to Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and while there are some similarities and they are both excellent books, I think this book is not quite as dark as that one which dealt with abuse.
Natasha meets Daniel on the worst day of her life--her last day in America. Her family are undocumented immigrants and thanks to her dad's bad decisions, they are being deported. Natasha was just a child when she arrived in the U.S. To her it is home more than Jamaica and she is feeling fear and worry about going back to a place that feels like a stranger. She also has to give up her college dreams to study science and become a data scientist.
Daniel is on his way to an interview with a Yale alumnus to help him with the college application process. His future is laid out before him: Yale, medical school, becoming a doctor, marrying an appropriate Korean girl. His brother was on the path but screwed up by getting sent home from Harvard. Now his parents are putting the pressure on him instead. Daniel isn't sure what he wants to do with his life but he doesn't think it involves being a doctor. He loves writing poetry but his dad doesn't approve.
When Daniel first sees Natasha on the street, he is fascinated by this pretty girl who is so into her music. Natasha finds Daniel attractive but in spite of his friendliness and attempts at flirtation, she doesn't want to give him false hope since she is leaving. She is too busy trying to find a last minute miracle to stay. Daniel however is convinced they are meant to be.
The Sun is Also a Star is about falling in love but it is also about having dreams and what happens when those dreams may not become a reality. The book looks at heavy issues like illegal immigration and parental pressure to succeed. It may seem like Natasha and Daniel may not have anything in common but they do--they are both the product of immigrant parents and both families have dreams of making it in America. In Daniel's case, his parents expect him and his brother to have amazing lives and accomplish more than they were able to. Coming to America meant giving their kids a brighter future. For Natasha's parents, her mom dreams of a bigger home with actual bedrooms for her kids. Her father wants to make it as an actor, the reason he is in the States in the first place. While they love their children, the kids' dreams seem to be secondary to survival and in their dad's case, he doesn't seem to notice them much anymore in the face of his own disappointments.
The story is told through the viewpoints of Natasha and Daniel but in between chapters we also get the perspective of Natasha's dad, Charlie's mean older brother and various other characters. This helps to round out the characters and the narrative. Both science and poetry are woven throughout the story, matching the viewpoints of Natasha and Daniel.
When I finished this novel, I could see why it received so much praise. It is certainly worthy of it and to be honest, I liked it much more than Yoon's debut, Everything, Everything. It made me think and I cared about the characters and their situation. While Everything, Everything has been made into a movie I hope this one will be too. It is almost like Serendipity (the romantic comedy film) meets Eleanor & Park. If I had read this last year, it would have made my list of 2016 favorites but I am sure it will be making my list of favorites this year.