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Book Review: Nicola Yoon Turns What Could Have Been a Trite Romance into Something Wonderful in 'The Sun Is Also a Star'

This is a must read. 🌞🌟

Have you ever felt an inexplicable connection to a stranger? An intensity that lasts a few seconds, maybe a minute, before they disappear from your life never to be seen again? The Sun is Also a Star explores what might happen if, instead of watching the stranger walk away, you followed them. Now I know what you’re thinking, and no, this is – thankfully – not a book chronicling the life of a stalker. It is a novel about how a single action can trigger a set of events that alter the course of the universe.

Nicola Yoon’s second book is much more than just a love story about a teenage boy and girl who meet on a chance encounter in New York. Of course, it retains a few of the cheesy, cringy YA hallmarks, but Yoon’s crisp prose and evocative imagery turn a story that could have been a trite romance, into something wonderful.

I wouldn’t say it’s better than her first novel, Everything, Everything, but this page-turner is the perfect weekend read. The Sun is Also a Star has a simple plot: Daniel, a Korean-American guy, and Natasha, a Jamaican-American girl, meet twelve hours before she’s due to get deported. They spend the day blowing through a series of quiz questions designed to make them fall in love. The book has its flaws, but let’s talk about the good stuff first.

One aspect that immediately caught my attention, was Yoon’s role reversal: instead of the girl being the poet/dreamer/idealist, Daniel takes on this role, while his love, Natasha, is the woman of science. Natasha’s able to give physics lessons at a moment’s notice, and Yoon uses her to debunk the myth that girls are bad at maths and science.

The author herself studied electrical engineering, and she’s able to write these sections authentically. Readers also get lessons in Jamaican, Korean and African-American culture, that is so effortlessly woven into the story, we don’t even realise we’re being educated. Yoon uses striking metaphors and images to trigger powerful emotions within the reader. It’s a trademark of her writing that makes you greedy to read on.

 

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Do you think you could fall in love in a single day? #TheSunIsAlsoAStar

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In a world where we’re so caught up in our own lives, Yoon stresses the importance of human connections. She uses multiple POVs that, rather than detract from the overall story, enrich it. She’ll give us a certain set of facts through one character’s eyes, and immediately reveal the truth about them in the following section. I often found myself feeling guilty, or ashamed at being so quick to judge characters before I knew their stories. Yoon seems acutely aware of human flaws, and her novel is a powerful mirror that inspires change in anyone who picks up the book.

Some critics have claimed the side stories shift the focus from Daniel and Natasha too much and that they were distracted by these breaks in the narrative. While I don’t entirely hold this stance, I must admit, adding these extra stories to the book gives us less time with our two main characters. Yoon has written a beautifully textured story, at the expense of fully developing Daniel and Natasha. It’s ironic that she’s constructed a world so real we can almost taste it, but two protagonists who are flatter than milk crepes.

Natasha is so logical and rational, I could barely identify with her as a human, while Daniel is so ruled by his emotions, that I giggled at his chivalrous displays. It may be a teen romance, but this novel had far too much hand-holding and lovingly-staring-into-each-others-eyes moments. There are sections where Yoon tries much too hard to convince us of how beautiful each protagonist is, and this – more than anything else – prevented me from liking them. I know Daniel and Natasha have just met, so yes, the magnetism between them is undeniable, but they’re trying to squeeze a lifetime into a day, so the emphasis shouldn’t remain on physical appearance.

 

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Day 1: Who’s excited? 🙋🙋‍♂️ Follow along as we bring #TheSunIsAlsoAStar to life on the big screen!

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This is an ambitious book, charmingly written for the most part, but you’ll need to suspend disbelief for the coincidences to make sense. It claims to be a love story, but the sincerest scenes unfold between the parents and their children, not the star-crossed lovers. Perhaps I would have liked them if I’d had more time with Daniel and Natasha, but these characters are severely one-dimensional. I’m one of those people who believe the book is always better than the film, but maybe I’m wrong this time. Some good directing and the genuine on-screen chemistry between the lead actors could make me fall in love with this story.

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1. 'The Sun Is Also a Star' by Nicola Yoon

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton! The #1 New York Times bestseller and National Book Award Finalist from the bestselling author of Everything, Everything will have you falling in love with Natasha and Daniel as they fall in love with each other.

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