Recently, Nicola Yoon reached popular renown through her first publication “Everything, Everything.” But her second book, “The Sun is also a Star,” carries themes that the first doesn’t touch. With “The Sun is also a Star,” Yoon turns the YA genre on its head; her two teenage characters deal with adult problems most can’t even begin to imagine. Even with a topic most would consider too heavy, Yoon manages to keep from dragging the readers into despair, and instead offers answers for questions that all people growing up ask.
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?
Nicola Yoon’s second novel, and second New York Times bestseller, is not one to miss. This is the first book I have read from Yoon, as her first and recently made motion picture novel, “Everything, Everything” is still in my stack of books to read. Even without reading her other work though, after reading “The Sun is also a Star,” it isn’t hard to find that Yoon has narrowed the technique for creating the perfect young adult novel. While it is meant for young, early-high school or middle school readers, it is still a great read with some very deep themes.
The plot of this novel centers around two children of immigrants to the United States–one legal, and the other illegal. Don’t fear! It doesn’t get political, but it is a really interesting story line that does not disappoint. Each character has his or her own pressures, and through the meeting of Daniel and Natasha, they come to light. With her characters, Yoon follows the questions of what home means, how your parents are human too, and the difficulty of growing up and learning sometimes the world lets you down. In more than one way, this book is perfect for high school readers; it asks and tries to give answers to questions young people have.
The most interesting part of this novel, though, comes through the narration. The short chapters are told mainly through the two main characters’ perspectives, but the occasional glimpse into the minds of minor characters makes a huge difference in how you read the story and understand its purpose. Natasha and Daniel are compelling characters, and their story is the one that matters, but when Yoon gives a chapter from the perspective of the security guard at a building Natasha enters, or into the thoughts of Natasha or Daniel’s parents, or even of a lawyer who Natasha and Daniel both meet, the plot becomes more wholesome and full of life. She shows that the main story isn’t the only story worth noting in a novel, and that other characters do have lives outside of the main characters.
In all, this book extends from what is expected of a young adult novel–the characters aren’t rescued from their troubles by deus ex machina (a belief Yoon pointedly makes in the novel). I recommend you try this book out if you want to read a meaningful YA novel, if you like third-person narratives with multiple perspectives, or if you want a little bit of reality in your read.
“We have big, beautiful brains. We invent things that fly. Fly. We write poetry. You probably hate poetry, but it’s hard to argue with ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate’ in terms of sheer beauty. We are capable of big lives. A big history. Why settle? Why choose the practical thing, the mundane thing? We are born to dream and make the things we dream about.”