BookBrowse Reviews The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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The Sun Is Also a Star

by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon X
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2016, 384 pages

    Mar 2019, 384 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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About this Book



In Yoon's second YA novel, two New York City teens – a Korean-American dreamer and a Jamaican science buff – get only one day in which to fall in love.

Daniel Bae's parents run a beauty supply store in Flushing. With his older brother Charlie in disgrace after being suspended from Harvard, Daniel's family's sky-high expectations are all pinned on him. He has an interview with a Yale alumnus scheduled for this afternoon, but he's not sure he really wants to go to an Ivy League school and become a doctor like his parents would like. He'd rather be writing poetry.

Natasha Kingsley is also a seventeen-year-old high school senior, but she and her family are undocumented immigrants and – unless she or her lawyer can pull off a miracle with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services – will be deported to Jamaica tonight. A dogged rationalist, Natasha loves physics and astronomy and denies idealistic notions about the world, but a tiny part of her has faith that they'll be allowed to stay.

Daniel and Natasha first meet each other at a record store. When Daniel saves Natasha from being run over on her way out of the shop and asks to take her out to coffee, a chance encounter turns into something more. Daniel is instantly smitten; Natasha thinks he's cute, yet she's not convinced that this relationship can go anywhere.

Like a contemporary Romeo and Juliet, the unlikely pair faces several challenges: Daniel's parents expect him to marry a Korean girl and his father isn't impressed when he turns up with a black girl with an Afro. The two characters also represent opposite outlooks on life, with Daniel a hopeless romantic who thinks they are meant to be and Natasha ever the scientist seeking evidence. "I am really not a girl to fall in love with," she thinks. "For one thing, I don't like temporary, nonprovable things, and romantic love is both temporary and nonprovable."

But Daniel is determined to make Natasha fall in love with him through science, so finds a set of personal questions and exercises (like staring deeply into each other's eyes for four minutes) that were proven in a laboratory study to foster intimacy between strangers. As they journey through the city, going out for Korean food and karaoke, meeting each other's parents and splitting off for their respective appointments, Daniel peppers Natasha with the study's intimacy-building questions about their families, memories, and hopes for the future. But Natasha still hasn't told Daniel about her imminent deportation.

This is a charming and unusual teen romance that readers of John Green and David Arnold will love. The short chapters switch between first-person accounts from the two protagonists, but there are also brief interludes in the third person about other characters: Daniel's brother, Charlie Bae; the fathers; and a security guard at USCIS. It's an intriguing strategy that ensures readers get a more objective perspective and understand all the unexpected ways our stories influence other people, and vice versa.

The novel is especially effective at examining Natasha and Daniel's relationships with their fathers and showing how mistakes and regrets from a parent's past – like Natasha's father's failed career as an actor – can influence how they raise their children. Yoon deftly sets the love story in a cosmic framework, using Natasha's fascination with physics to explore the theory of multiple universes. Is there one in which Daniel and Natasha get to be together? At the same time, the author keeps things down-to-earth with humor. For instance, the melodramatic headlines Daniel occasionally invents to sum up his circumstances – like "Local Teen Trapped in Parental Vortex of Expectation and Disappointment, Doesn't Expect to Be Rescued" – are very funny.

The one-day setting (see 'Beyond the Book') is a great plot setup that lends urgency to the love story. The book loses momentum a bit in the middle while the teens look for ways to kill time in the city, and I wasn't sure how I felt about the ending, which again makes reference to the multiverse theory. But overall it's a sweet and enjoyable novel teens are sure to race through.

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster

This review first ran in the January 18, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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Beyond the Book:
  Circadian Novels


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