Review of THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by NICOLA YOON
(review based on an advance reading copy)
I fell in love with this author’s remarkable debut novel EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING about a teenage girl who can never leave her house due to a rare autoimmune disease. Often when a reader adores an author’s first book (or even merely the first one you happened to read), it makes it that much harder for the next to live up to your already high expectations. I definitely didn’t make it easy for this novel to win me over. Despite repeatedly instructing myself otherwise, I kept measuring this one against the first book. For the first quarter or so, I worried that, while good, this wasn’t quite as good, but as I kept reading, and especially once I finished, I concluded that THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR held up to my very high hopes for it.
This entire book takes place over one day. And, in one day, teenagers Daniel and Natasha fall in love. Let me start off by praising the author for challenging herself, because she faced two very difficult tasks: setting an entire book over a single day and having two characters believably fall in love so quickly. And Yoon pulls off both feats, by the way.
Natasha is a scientific skeptic and I doubt I could have invested in such a fast romance without one of her kind. Simply because she’s not the type of person who does this. She tries so hard not to do this, to fight her impulses, to logic her way out of emotions.
Let me back up a little, though, and tell you something else about Natasha. She is an illegal immigrant and her family is being deported tomorrow. She’s out on her own today seeking a lawyer in a last desperate attempt to stop the inevitable when she meets Daniel. He, on the other hand, is a poet and a hopeless romantic, but unfortunately he’s on his way to a Yale interview so he can begin the life of a doctor his parents have planned out for him.
Perhaps to make everything seem longer or to highlight each and every small, special moment, the book features extremely small chapters. The longest are 3-4 pages while numerous are less a full page. As another interesting twist in style, the author sprinkles Natasha and Daniel’s story with the perspectives of peripheral characters. Along the way the main love story will be ever so briefly interrupted for a chapter about Natasha’s dad, the aforementioned lawyer, even a security guard Natasha interacts with briefly. And this isn’t some weird attempt at being original that falls flat. No, this ties in perfectly with the novel’s theme. Because Daniel and Natasha hardly know each other and yet they change each other’s life cataclysmically in one day. And while we barely know some of these minor characters, we see how strongly some small events affect them.
While I will confess that I still like EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING the best of these two books, I think I nevertheless admire Yoon more for this one. THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR cannot have been easy to write, and yet she makes it feel like it couldn’t possibly have been written any other way.