Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
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?
Everything, Everything would have to have been one of my favourite reads of 2015, so when I learned that Nicola Yoon was working on another novel, I was beyond excited, already counting down the days until I could hold her next masterpiece in my hands. While The Sun Is Also A Star is vastly different to Everything, Everything in terms of major themes, the romantic interaction of characters and the way it was written, these two books are united not just by their gorgeous covers that sit perfectly together, but also by the way the characters are vibrant and alive, the plot is heart-wrenching and moving and the writing style will make you want to jot down beautiful sentences and sear them onto your heart. But The Sun Is Also A Star wasn’t just an enjoyable read. It’s a book that tore my heart apart and threw the shreds back at me, but at the same time filled me with an incredible sense of beauty and optimism, and for that reason it will stay with me for a long time to come.
One of the things I loved most about this novel was its diversity. There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of diversity in all literature and why it’s important to reflect the vast, vibrant, beautiful world we live in in the stories were write. To me, to have a novel that isn’t diverse doesn’t make sense to me, because the world we live in doesn’t just contain one type of person or one race or one sexual orientation. To me, Nicola Yoon is one of those people leading the charge and changing the way we read and see YA fiction. It’s so important to me that every person is able to see themselves in the books they read, and I honestly believe Yoon is allowing for that. But of course, diversity isn’t something that Yoon forces and it isn’t what makes her novel spectacular. What makes The Sun Is Also A Star truly remarkable is the way these characters are so alive and so realistic, almost as if they could walk straight off the pages and into our world. They’re complicated and complex and three-dimensional, and that was one of the main factors that made this book the compelling piece of prose it is.
Ultimately, this novel is one that’s driven by its characters, so it was integral that they were well formed and just people, and Yoon definitely achieved that. We were first introduced to Natasha Kingsley who’s twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica, so she decides to try one last time to convince the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to let her stay and not pay for her father’s mistake. Her desperation to stay with her friends and her family in the place she knows at home radiated off the pages, allowing me to feel her heartache for the life she wants to have and the future she’s worked so hard for, which she feels is going to be erased if she’s forced to leave. Whether or not anyone you know, or you yourself, has been in a similar situation, her pain is so raw and real that everyone would be able to see a piece of themselves in Natasha, and that’s what made her story so heartbreaking and moving.
I also loved the smaller parts of Natasha, which contributed to the whole beautiful, strikingly real character she was. She was someone who thought of herself as a realist, always favouring science and statistics over a dream of miracles and yearning for the impossible. As a massive nerd at heart, hearing her talk about science and theories really made me geek out, like Yes! This girl knows me! It was also really lovely to read about the confidence she had in herself and the way she was comfortable with her appearance. I’ve read too many books lately that assume characters, especially teenage girls, should have to feel insecure about themselves to be ‘realistic’, so it was refreshing and a relief to finally read about a person who was at ease with who she was and showed that to the world. Natasha is actually my hero, and I’m so lucky to have spent time with her and got to know her through reading her moving, heart-wrenching tale.
Daniel’s story was equally as compelling, and he was also a character I saw myself in. Seemingly the opposite to Natasha, he’s a poet, a hopeless romantic, someone who believes in love at first sight and has faith in miracles. He writes in a moleskin notebook and writes about having his heart broken, which hasn’t happened… yet. In that way, I’ve never read about a character more like me. He’s also pushed by his family and feels like his only option in life is to go to Yale, the ‘second-best school’, which was really well developed in the narrative as we got to understand the pressure that comes from some parents and what it means to actually decide to do something you love instead of what everyone else expects of you. Daniel was adorable and sweet, and I absolutely loved getting to know him.
Although the blurb alludes to insta-love, my experience with The Sun Is Also A Star definitely didn’t read like that. While the encounters between these two teenagers only lasted a day and their relationship was founded upon those integral hours, it didn’t feel like insta-love because one of the characters was determined not to fall in love with the other. If both characters had fallen head-over-heels immediately, that would have caused some issues, but I felt like their relationship was well-developed and stunningly realistic. Reading about the relationships both Natasha and Daniel had with their families was an integral part of the narrative and something that was executed exceptionally well. I couldn’t have asked for more realistic or unique characters, and I found that I formed a deep connection with all of them.
Finally, Nicola Yoon’s writing style is addictive and compelling and it’s completely unique to her, which is what I love most about it. The elegant phrases and sentences that made my heart ache highlights her remarkable gift with words and allows her to play with our emotions in the best possible ways. What was most unique about her writing style in The Sun Is Also A Star is how she would have page-long descriptions of some of the people or ideas she referenced in the previous chapter. These additions allowed us to learn more about characters we would have otherwise not paid any attention to, and learn things that impacted the story without a character having to subject us to a page of backstory or explanation that took away from the action. It was something I’d never seen done before, but I thought it worked particularly well for a story like this one that relied so much on time.
Overall, The Sun Is Also A Star is a heart-wrenching, moving tale about love, loss and learning to embrace the life you have, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Have you had the chance to read The Sun Is Also A Star yet? Have you read Everything, Everything? Are you a fan of insta-love, and did you enjoy the romance in this novel? What’s one of your favourite diverse reads? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Penguin Australia for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review!