4 out of 5 stars (The last three pages get 10 out of 5 stars.)
Ah, Nicola Yoon. Her books are my ultimate YA palette cleanser. Crisp, clean, sweet and infinitely memorable.
The Sun is Also a Star is the story of Natasha and Daniel. Natasha is an undocumented immigrant who’s lived in the US since she was eight; today she and her family are to be deported back to Jamaica. In the course of a last-ditch attempt to stall her departure, she meets Daniel. He’s having a fateful day too. Daniel is Korean-American, born in the US, and attempting to follow his parents’ strictly monitored American dream: Ivy League school, medical career, money, comfort, security. This is not the dream Daniel writes of in his poetry.
Natasha is all left-brain. She believes in science and logic and provable fact. Daniel is the opposite – and probably the most open, communicative teen boy ever written. I don’t know if such a guy could survive in reality. But it’s dreamy – he falls hard for Natasha, almost instantly, and what’s more, he tells her. Just like that, to a girl he barely knows. We’re meant to be.
Esoteric questions abound, woven around a budding love story like ribbons on a gift. Is there such a thing as meant to be? And does it have to be forever? Or would a single, perfectly imperfect day of true, startling connection be enough to fulfill the potential of two kindred hearts? Sit down before you swoon.
Not everything is rosy, of course. Lives are changing. Themes of control – what you should control, what you can’t, how to know the difference – form a heavy foundation for this story. At one point, Daniel advises Natasha to simply tell the truth. She immediately spins it on him – “Just tell your parents you don’t want to go to Yale,” roughly. We instantly see how life can look easy from the outside, while on the inside it’s tying you up.
This beautiful book requires readers to take a leap of faith – the same leap the story asks of Nathasha. You have to get on board with Daniel’s romantic notions right away, or you’ll close this book quickly, thinking, “How ridiculous.” It is, and it isn’t. If Natasha and her math can come around, so can you.
I often wonder which ending is more cliched these days, the happy or the un-happy. Which is more obvious? Each has been used too many times. I won’t tell you which way The Sun is Also a Star goes, but I will say this: the last three pages are transcendent. I didn’t truly connect with this book until the very end. With just a few slips of paper between me and the back cover, I began debating between 3 or 3.5 out of 5 stars for this review. The end earned it a solid 4+. It also earned a sudden welling of my tears, a burst of emotion as strong as anything Natasha and Daniel feel within its pages.
I read the ending three times.
Check out this video on how the made the book’s cover art: