Monday, January 9, 2017

The Sun is Also a Star

Image result for the sun is also a starThe Sun is Also a Star
Nicola Yoon
Delacorte, 2016  384 pages
Grades 8-Up

Alternating narrators tell the stories of Natasha and Daniel as they experience a crazy and clandestine day in New York City and fall in love. Natasha's Jamaican-American family is about to be deported because of a bad decision made by her father. The rest of the family has resigned themselves to their fate, but Natasha is not giving up easily. She is on her way to the immigration office to fight for the right to stay in the only home that makes sense to her. Meanwhile, Korean-American Daniel is being forced by his immigrant parents to attend Yale and become a doctor. He is dressed up and ready to go to his interview for the prestigious school and begin the path to success, even though in his heart he wants to be a poet. Both teenagers are on the cusp of the next step in their lives and they meet quite unexpectedly. Their chance encounter leads to coffee and conversation. Daniel is instantly smitten with Natasha and is determined to make her fall in love with him. Natasha knows she is about to get deported. Besides, she is scientific and doesn't believe in love. The young people journey together to the office of an immigration lawyer, stop off for an embarrassing encounter at Daniel's family's black hair-care business, and then onto a Korean restaurant for lunch and karaoke. Predictably, the two fall in love and Natasha eventually confides in Daniel her dilemma. The roller-coaster of a day goes up and down. It looks as if all is lost, when surprisingly Natasha gets good news, followed by a series of events destroying their happiness. Coincidences abound as our heroes run around New York, getting to know each other, falling in love, and establishing a connection for life. The book ends at the conclusion of the day with the results that will make most teen readers tear-up, but do not despair. Yoon includes an epilogue at the end telling us the fate of our heroes and leaving us with a happily-ever-after.

Yoon follows up her best-selling Everything Everything with a novel closer to home. She is a Jamaican immigrant and her husband is Korean-American and although she claims that the novel is not autobiographical, she does admit that it contains the spirit of their relationship. What I loved about this book: I loved the New York City setting, the tight narration and distinct voices of the characters, the reflection of challenges currently facing new Americans, the accurate depiction of teenagers with immigrant parents who have to carry adult responsibilities. I loved that the book ended with the day drawing to a close and the teenagers saying goodbye instead of some unrealistic miracle falling from the sky and saving the day. What I didn't like about this book: I don't like books that take place all in one day; for some reason they make me twitchy like I'm watching Groundhog Day. I found myself rolling my eyes as the teenagers were falling in love, but, admittingly, this could be my age and cynicism showing. I hated the epilogue and felt that it cheapened the ending. That said, teens will love it and that is the target audience. I found the book a quick and fun read. I like how Yoon supplied the back stories on minor characters and we were treated to excepts of their takes on the day. The book was clearly well written and teens, especially girls, will eat it up. Do I think it was worthy to be a National Book Award finalist? Not really. It was starred in practically every professional journal I use, so maybe I'm missing something. Or maybe I'm just getting old. At any rate, this book is entertaining, well written, readable and, best of all, teens will love it. Beyond this, it features a diverse cast of characters and offers timely messages about the present state of American immigration.

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