If there was one book that I would read over and over again throughout my life, it would be The Sun is Also a Star, a young adult novel written by New York Times Bestselling author, Nicola Yoon. Incidentally, I actually came across this novel via the movie based on it. While I definitely enjoyed the movie (which stars the magnificent actress Yara Shahidi and fellow co-star Charles Melton), it certainly in no way does the book justice. The Sun is Also a Star is a story that switches back and forth between different narrative points of view, including supporting characters that, in a normal storyline, may be considered insignificant. This is what I love most about the book. Unfortunately, that aspect of the novel was not able to be translated properly into the cinematic form. The novel beautifully and intricately weaves different character storylines together, allowing readers to experience the various perspectives from a first-person view.
The main storyline follows two characters: Natasha, a practical and pragmatic high school student, fighting against the nearly inevitable fate of being deported to her birth country after moving to the United States when she was a young child. As the story proceeds, we can sense that Natasha’s bleak and sometimes cold view of the world is not necessarily something that is innate to her personality, but the result of the hardships she has faced being an undocumented immigrant in New York City. While her peers are going on college tours and visiting universities across the country, our protagonist feels stuck, unable to move forward in life because of the decision of her father, who choose to self-report to ICE that he was undocumented. The second protagonist, Daniel, a first-generation American born to Korean Immigrant parents, like Natasha feels as if forces are directing his life beyond his control. With his older brother on academic probation from a top Ivy League school, the family’s hopes and dreams are now resting on his shoulders. This self-proclaimed romanticist struggles to deal with the expectation of his parents, the resentment of his brother, and his own desire to pursue his dreams of being a poet.
Fate and happenstance wind their way through this riveting novel. The reader is given the opportunity, along with the characters, to question how the story would play out if certain preceding events hadn’t occurred. There is not a classic happy ending. And for those who haven’t read the novel, WARNING: spoilers ahead.
Natasha’s attempt to contest her family’s deportation fails. Daniel ultimately decides not to follow his family’s wish to become a doctor. The magical twenty-four-odd hours spent the two spend together comes to a reflective end, as the teens share a final taxi ride on the way to the airport where Natasha will board a flight back to her native home, a place she neither knows nor remembers. Daniel and Natasha will try at first to stay in touch, but will eventually lose contact as they inevitably enter adulthood and lead their own separate lives.
The Epilogue, however, provides the audience hope that their flame of love will be rekindled when, by providence or chance, their life paths eventually collide again.
Excerpt from The Sun is Also a Star:
“I don’t believe in love.”
“It’s not a religion,” he says. “It exists whether you believe in it or not.”
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