Book Review: The Sun is Also a Star

28763485A while back, I read Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star.

By “a while back”, I mean I finished it in the first few days of January.

Yeah.

It’s been a while.

I enjoyed Yoon’s debut Everything, Everything – it was a bit too sweet and a bit too syrupy and so not me, but eh, I loved it anyway. Everyone needs the literary equivalent of a diabetic coma every now and again, right? Well, Everything, Everything was mine.  When I read that Nicola Yoon was releasing a new novel dealing with immigration, I was pretty sure that it’d be up my alley. When The Sun is Also a Star turned out to be one of Book of the Month Club’s picks, I thought it was simply kismet and made it my selection.

To my sadness and frustration, I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped.

Yoon is a competent, strong writer and she’s got great ideas and knows how to carry them out – I didn’t feel as though the novel were half-baked or un-done in some strange fashion.

I suppose I simply found it…difficult? I guess, to really get into caring about Natasha and Daniel’s romance. Part of that, I believe, comes from the fact that the story essentially takes place over the course of a day. While I knew that going in, I still have difficulty believing that a strong connection like the book tries to portray can grown in under 24 hours.  It is just not feasible to me. I’ve met people I enjoyed and, within a few hours, knew I’d like to spend more time around them.  What cements those thoughts are the time spent together. True affection and love are built on knowing someone, caring for someone and knowing, understanding and accepting their flaws and quirks. I am categorically unable to believe the connection Yoon states Daniel and Natasha share.

I am in no way, shape or form, someone who could be confused for a romantic. I believe in “lust or crushes at first sight’ but not ‘love in first sight’ and I think this spoils the book for me.

I do appreciate that The Sun is Also a Star realizes it’s depicting instalove and Yoon tries to, at the very least, build a case for it. I’m still not buying what she’s selling, but hey, that’s far more than most YA novels featuring instalove provide. Those novels attempt to make it seem real. The Sun is Also a Star acknowledges the oddity (even if it does succumb to it).

For me, the most interesting aspect of the novel is Natasha’s father. It’s more than a bit clear that he is not truly meant to be the character with whom you commiserate and sympathize the most.. He is, after all, the reason Natasha and her family will be deported and the reason for essentially the action of the novel. While he’s not meant to be the one you sympathize with, he’s incredibly interesting and important – without him and his gigantic mistake, there is no Natasha running around desperately trying to stop her deportation and thus, no Natasha eventually meeting Daniel.

I’m interested because in Natasha’s dad, I see lost dreams and my god, how I can sympathize. I see in him a talented someone who took one road and never imagined it would completely derail his plans for his life. I understand the pain of waking up, looking around and wondering how you’ve managed to trap yourself in an existence you never imagined for yourself and aren’t sure you really want. I’m lucky enough to not have to have dragged others into my melodrama, the way he did with a wife and two kids, but I understand. And I feel a visceral sort of sympathy for him. My heart aches for him in a way it really should be aching for Natasha, being that she is the architect of exactly none of the mess her life has become.

I too had particular plans and dreams for my life and I too have watched as those plans and dreams fell by the wayside as other factors (factors I didn’t necessarily want, wish for or fully understand) consumed my time, energy, abilities and attention.. I very often wonder how I ended up where I did and what, if anything, I might be able to do to move where I want to be. Of course I have sympathy for Natasha but her dad’s plight reached me in a way I didn’t imagine it would when I started The Sun is Also A Star. I’ve never imagined that I would have as much sympathy as I do for a man who essentially devastated the lives of his wife and children with his thoughtless actions, and yet I do. I very much do.

This, I think, is something that saved the book for me. It’s something that made me not dismiss it as quickly as I would have when I originally finished reading. It’s a testament to Yoon’s abilities that she’s able to make you feel something you didn’t believe you could.

 

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