Yesterday I picked up a copy of Nicola Yoon‘s The Sun is Also a Star and I could not put it down. I had grabbed a copy off of my library shelf the day before that, taken it home, and the morning following picked it up about 6 a.m. and read it all day.
It is simply put, beautiful.
The premise is simple enough, boy and girl meet and fall in love over the course of a day. But the story is so much more than that. It is about science and dreaming. It’s about fate and God. It’s about the logical and the ‘let it go and go with it’ ethos. This is a story in which ideologies collide, and combine, and reinvent themselves over.
We hear from Daniel, who is the second son in a first generation Korean-American family. His parents have immigrated, and brought their two sons with them from South Korea. But Daniel struggles to live up to the life that his parents want for him. He is the dreamer in a very logical world.
We also hear the story of Natasha, a first generation Jamaican-American who lives below the radar of USCIS in New York city with her father, mother and younger brother. Her story is one of poverty born of dreams. Her father, hoping to find his niche in the acting world, has brought his family along with him to America, but Natasha’s mother struggles to hold two jobs and support the family, while her father reads from plays. Natasha has lost faith and hope in the world of dreamers.
When the two meet through sheer circumstance, (fate even), they must come to terms with falling in love with each other, with the practicalities of their own lives and problems, and with the oft-intangible nature of love. Will fate decide to keep them together, or tear them apart? Does it matter? Is fate even real?
The book is a great read, the chapters are short and the point of views from both protagonists are snappy. The story has great pace and the introduction of ‘The Universe,” in the form of short informative chapters about the support characters throughout the story, give us pause to consider a bigger picture.
As an immigrant I related so well to themes in this book. In fact, so much so that I felt that this book was giving voice to things that I was unable to articulate. From the feelings of uncertainty over where we belong, to the loss of culture from our home country. To the question of am I _____, or am I _____? Do I belong here because I now have the accent? Where AM I from “originally”? The book gives voice to these questions, and the accompanying feelings of insecurity that follow them, so very well.
There are some amazing quotes in this book:
“I’m sorry about everything, about the whole history of the world and all its racism and the unfairness of it all”
“What are you even saying? It’s not your fault. You can’t apologize for racism.”
“I can and I do.” (p. 144).
“Every culture is like that. The Americans, the French, the Jamaicans, the Koreans. Everyone thinks their was is the best way.” (p. 157).
“…My parents think I’m not Korean enough, Everybody else thinks I’m not American enough.” (p. 158).
Sometimes when he looks at her doing her homework at the kitchen table, he thinks she belongs to someone else. Her world is bigger than him and the things he taught her to be interested in. He doesn’t know when she outgrew him. (p. 209).
Growing up and seeing your parent’s flaws is like losing your religion. (p. 215-216).
My father is shaped by the memory of things I will never know. (p. 237).
“Do you think that it’s funny that both of our favorite memories are about people we like the least now?” I ask.
“Maybe that’s why we dislike them,” she says. “The distance between who they were and who they are is so wide, we have no hope of getting them back.” (p. 278).
I also have to thank Ms. Yoon for pages 129-131. I genuinely did not know the significance of this, but was aware that it can be a sensitive issue for many people here in America. As someone who was raised outside of the context of hair and its history for people of color in America, I really appreciate such a great explanation.
Overall, the consensus is that this book is in my top (insert number here- I’ve actually lost count) list of fabulous books. Yoon completely nails it and I thoroughly look forward to reading Everything, Everything of which I am currently on a long wait list for at my library.
And, yes, I do look forward to seeing Nicola Yoon at ALA in Chicago this year.