My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”
The Sun Is Also A Star, by Nicola Yoon, is about Natasha, a girl who believes in scientific fact. She definitely doesn’t buy into fate or destiny or far-fetched dreams. She also definitely doesn’t want to fall in love, especially not when it’s her last day in America and she’s getting deported back to Jamaica.
The novel is also about Daniel, a boy with Korean, first-generation immigrant parents. His life is all planned out: as the good son, he’s out to become a doctor just like his parents wanted. But what he really believes in is poetry and love and destiny, and when he meets Natasha he’s never been more sure about it. Unfortunately, Natasha doesn’t seem to feel the same...
At surface, The Sun Is Also A Star seems like a typical boy-and-girl-fall-in-love-and-overcome-obstacles YA contemporary novel. And it is, except it’s also a little bit more than that. This book tackles issues about racism, immigration, suicide, culture and tradition, falling in love and finding your place in life.
And the issues raised in the book are dealt with such amazing consideration and sensitivity. I loved that Nicola Yoon also gave me glimpses into the lives of people that Natasha and Daniel encounter and make you feel for them and understand them even if they’re only passing characters. I think that sometimes we as human beings tend to forget that everyone has a story, and most of the time we’ll never get to know what that story is, but people are the way they are because of what they have experienced in life.
One of my favorite glimpses had to be the one about the waitress at the Korean restaurant, who kicked up a fuss about Natasha not being able to use chopsticks. It seemed like such a petty thing to get pissed off about at first, but when the story continues and sheds light into why it was so important for the waitress that people use chopsticks when eating at a Korean restaurant and what she’d lost when she moved to America, it seriously made me tear up. Even if I didn’t agree with the waitress’s way of thinking, it still made me feel for her, especially when I read these lines:
“This country try to take everything from you. Your language, your food, your children. Learn how to use chopsticks. This country can’t have everything.”
And that’s one of my favorite things about the novel. It doesn’t just make you root for Natasha and Daniel’s love, it also makes you feel for characters that sometimes only appear in one or two chapters. Or at the very least, see where they’re coming from even if it’s not something you agree with. It’s rare for me to read a book that’s filled with so much empathy towards even the characters with the tiniest role in the story. And personally I’m reminded to be kind towards everyone I meet, whether online or offline, because I never know what kind of struggle they’re going through in their life.
Another thing I really loved about this book is the little bits and pieces of science and history thrown in-between chapters. The history of black hair, Koreans and their black hair care product businesses, why people say “eyes are the windows to the soul” and so many other things I didn’t know of until now. The scientific trivia are super interesting, and the historical trivia emphasizes the cultural aspects of many things that are a regular in Natasha and Daniel’s life. I related to those bits and snippets of history a lot because my Filipino culture is also like that. Our food, the way we speak, the way we dress, all of that isn’t JUST nice things to have, but who we are as a people.
The ONLY complaint I have is that at the very end of the book, Daniel is referred to as “looking Asian.” It just felt like a lazy way to describe a Korean boy because there are different kinds of Asians, from Chinese and Japanese to brown ones such as Indians, Malay, Filipinos, etc. So it was kind of weird reading that, especially since it propagates the whole “all Asians look alike” mentality. ON THE OTHER HAND, the chapter WAS from the POV of a white chick, so MAYBE it’s in-character for her? It still made me a tiny bit uncomfortable but I still loved the book overall if I just ignore that one part!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of a good, honest, and richly diverse story. I have had so many feels while reading this book and I teared up in so many chapters, plus the ending is just a big huge mushy lovey-dovey pile of “AWWWWWW.”
The Sun Is Also A Star was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and I cannot rave about it enough!
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This review was by my girl, Chiqui from yalitreads.com. If you liked this review you follow/book-stalk her reviews should check out her other stuff. She's essentially me. But Filipina
Hi, I’m Chiqui, a web designer, cat lover, and 30-something YA book addict. I'm also the owner of and writer behind Wring Them Out Like Rain, a young adult book review and recommendations website. I've been reading books since the glory days of Sweet Valley High and Goosebumps, and I hope to share with you my love for reading and fiction!