Published by Delacorte Press on November 1, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary
Source: ALA Annual 2016
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?
Diversity: 4 – This Is Our World
Racial-Ethnic: 5 (Natasha’s family is Jamaican, Daniel’s is South Korean, and their identities are explored well)
QUILTBAG: 0 (very brief appearance of a lesbian women in one interlude chapter)
Disability: 1 (a suicidal woman makes brief appearances in two or three interlude chapters)
Intersectionality: 5 (see all of the above)
Look, I don’t set out to be a black sheep. It’s not fun thanks to all the jerkwads who will eventually show up in the comments to tell me how wrong I am and how I should die (legitimately a comment someone left in Portuguese on my review of a Cassandra Clare book). Nicola Yoon? Her fans are dedicated and I completely understand why because there’s a lot to like in Everything, Everything as well as her newest, The Sun Is Also a Star. I simply have grievances with both books that run too deep and mean too much for me.
The first page of the book is a monologue from Natasha where she ruminates on a Carl Sagan quote: “If you wish to make apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” Essentially, something as simple as making an apple pie is extraordinary because so much had to happen within the universe–even the universe itself had to happen–for you to be there in the kitchen at that moment making that pie. It’s enough to make you have an existential crisis about how you’ve taken your very existence for granted after all the work that went into bringing you about.
Anyway, that first page is brilliant and the novel’s writing is gorgeous. In addition to Daniel and Natasha’s POV chapters, we get short interlude chapters that focus on everything from other characters who come into contact with them to the history of hair. They tie in well to the first chapter through their reminder that there is a universe of other troubled people who exist just outside the orbit Daniel and Natasha enter with one another during their day together. For instance, a waitress at a Korean restaurant is rude to Natasha because she’d rather use a fork to eat than chopsticks. Immediately after, the waitress has an interlude in which we learn her son cut her out of his life and she misses him dearly.
The lyrical prose in those interlude chapters are a large part of why I kept reading once I realized this story Wasn’t For Me. (The other part was that I wanted to make a dent in my Goodreads challenge, which I was six books behind on at the time.)
There’s no other way to put it: The Sun Is Also a Star is 100% sappy, gooey romance with a very idealistic take on the idea of love. The novel pushes a strong belief in love at first sight and tries to scientifically justify insta-love, the trope most YA readers fear like no other.This is precisely what made the book not work for me. I can read romance and like it and get extremely excited about it (ahem, How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You), but I didn’t like this romance. The emotions of Natasha’s desperate situation and Daniel’s frustration with his heavily controlled life didn’t reach me either.
Y’know, this may be the first time I’ve written a review for a book I solidly disliked but used more words to talk about what I did like than what crashed the book for me. The good of this novel needs explanation; the bad does not because it’s so easily summed up.
Once The Sun Is Also a Star becomes a movie–and I feel certain that’s going to happen–it’s most likely going to be a hit and settle in as a classic teen romance film a la 10 Things I Hate About You because it is a sweet, romantic tale in the vein of how people in love with love look at the world. I’m simply not that kind of person. If every single bone in your body is romantic, this is your new favorite. If not, you’ll probably end up like me.
(And anyone who thinks I didn’t like this because I’m aromantic asexual is getting a whole lot of middle fingers pointed in their direction right now.)