The precision of Yoon’s voice might bring you back to a time in your life when you were optimistic enough to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
Why I love it
The best thing about reading YA fiction as an adult is getting to feel like a teenager again. The Sun Is Also a Star managed to transport me back to my first love'”or, rather, the first love I wish I could have had'”without veering into the realm of the sappy or the predictable.
Nicola Yoon’s exquisite novel takes place over the course of one single day in New York City: it’s the day Daniel has his alumni interview for Yale, a school he’s only applying to in order to gratify his strict Korean parents, and it’s Natasha’s last day in America; her family, illegal immigrants from Jamaica, were exposed after her father’s DUI, and now, she must return to a country she barely remembers. On this one day their stories overlap, and fate conspires for them to meet before it seems fate will inevitably tear them apart.
Naturally, the book explores ideas of home and immigration, of parents and the generation that follows them, but Yoon also frequently dips out of the narrative to provide brief histories of tangential topics: multiverses, Black hair, the chemical components of love. She also gives us omniscient glimpses into the lives of the people with whom Natasha and Daniel interact, directly or indirectly.
More than anything, The Sun Is Also a Star is a book about empathy. Even the would-be villains get backstories, and their actions are, if not justified, than at least explained. The waitress who rolls her eyes at you is missing her son, the security guard who examines your things for a bit too long is secretly hoping you’ll just say hi, and Natasha and Daniel are terrified, afraid of acting on their immediate attraction, and of not acting on it.
And so, in a narrative that lasts only twelve hours, Yoon writes a much bigger, and much more complex than one might predict of a book that might otherwise be dismissed as a straightforward boy-meets-girl story. Are relationships worth offering your heart as collateral when the forces that might rip it apart are already in motion, unstoppable, in a deterministic universe?
The laser-vision precision of Yoon’s voice might bring you back to a time in your life when you were optimistic enough to give everyone the benefit of the doubt: the days when you had it in you to tell the cashier to have a nice day and you really meant it, or when you gave the homeless woman on the train whatever money you could. The Sun Is Also a Star makes you want to hold closer the ones you love, and care more about the strangers in your life you’ve barely noticed.