Emily: Let's just get straight into it. We're wrapping up our Summer YA Book Club Reading Series (TM) with The Sun is Also A Star, by Nicola Yoon (author of Everything, Everything, which was just turned into movie starring Rue from the Hunger Games all grown up and beautiful, but anyway, back to the book at hand). This novel follows two teenagers as they meet and fall in love over the course of a single day in NYC. Natasha is an undocumented immigrant who is about to get deported with her family back to Jamaica. Daniel is the son of South Korean immigrants who are pushing him to apply to Yale and become a doctor when all he really wants to do is daydream about love and write poetry. When Natasha and Daniel first meet, Daniel is convinced they are destined to be together, but Natasha is obviously skeptical. So Daniel vows to spend the rest of the day convincing her to fall in love with him. If the plot itself seems a bit too tried and true, the narrative style definitely adds a twist to the story. In between Daniel and Natasha's alternating POV chapters, we get chapters from many other people who pass through their story, including my favorite, the suicidal security guard. The narrative style seems like a good place to start with this novel. Mary, how did you feel about the way Yoon decided to tell this story?
Mary: Yes, I love it. Typically HATE YA romance because it's so cliche at this point, but Yoon does a fantastic job of showing how everyone's story is connected--everyone is connected! I haven't loved a love story this much since Eleanor and Park (Kelli is somewhere cringing at that I bet).
Emily: I still haven't read Eleanor and Park, sadly. But yes, go on.
Mary: Also alternating POVs give readers a chance to be in he head of Natasha and Daniel, so there's a better view of the whole relationship.
Emily: Definitely. I really liked both Natasha and Daniel as characters. At the beginning of the novel, I was a little skeptical. And I've decided why. I kind of hate when teenagers in books are way too smart for their own good. Like, it's not realistic. Teenagers are dumb and they do dumb things. Sometimes I get pulled out of the world too much when teen characters are super smart. So at the beginning of this book, that was the direction this novel was going for me. And then SOMEHOW, by the end of this book, Yoon really got me. I'm not ashamed to say the ending made me cry.
Mary: For sure! I didn't cry, but not for lack of feeling. The smart teenager trope is something I feel is experiencing a boom because of John Green, who I very much dislike as an author, but who seems like a lovely person.
Emily: I think I just really hate John Green.
Mary: He hasn't written one book I like.
Emily: They're all so bad.
Mary: I think it's also significant that Yoon's cast is so diverse.
Emily: Yes! I loved that one of the protagonists was an illegal immigrant, especially since that's such a hot button issue right now, I don't want to get super political with this, but you know, a lot of Americans in our current political climate see "ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS" as like, demons who are taking our jobs and raping our babies.
Mary: Yes definitely, and Natasha is NOT like that at all. She's smart, a wonderful asset to her family and community.
Emily: And she clearly sees herself as an American.
Emily: Like, she grew up here, her friends are here, she is in the school system, etc.
Mary: One of the most powerful parts of the book is comparing how Daniel and Natasha navigate ethnicity, the perceptions of others, and being American.
Emily: Yes. Especially because Daniel's parents run a beauty shop that caters to black women specifically. So when Natasha visits the store, it's really uncomfortable.
Mary: Aaaah yes! That was great, and so strange! It brings up how the way America is set up often pits minorities against each other.
Emily: Like they're trying to profit off of discrimination, but by doing so, it keeps both groups down, if that makes sense? It's interesting too how much more connected Daniel is to his Korean culture. He takes her to have Korean food and to do noraebang.
Mary: Aaah yes, I wanted to eat Korean food and do norebang too! (Korean food is my favorite food)
Emily: And Natasha has like... completely separated herself from Jamaica.
Mary: It made me think especially about natural hair and how the beauty industry for black women is essentially railing against natural hair.
Emily: Yes, and Natasha's hair is natural, for those of you who haven't read. And she makes a point to say it's NOT A POLITICAL THING.
Mary: And she's pretty unfamiliar with the beauty industry.
Emily: She also thinks it's annoying that it has to be a political thing.
Mary: Which, not being a black woman or having that perspective, I agree. Wear your hair how you like it, everyone! But there's a ton of history around hair. *sigh* It is sad and interesting. Also, you're dead on that Natasha is super distant from Jamaican culture. Isn't that one of the reasons she scared to be deported? She doesn't know anything about Jamaica.
Emily: Yeah, she's, like, terrified of Jamaica, which is really sad.
Mary: It is sad, but man, I get it!
Emily: How do you feel about the way that changes for her in the end? Because (spoiler) she does get deported and she has to acclimate to Jamaican culture.
Mary: I think it's good she got to reconnect with this land that is a huge part of who she is.
Emily: Yes she adapts and even starts to have a Jamaican accent.
Mary: I like that--and it does show how easily young people adapt. Jamaica is often made out to be this scary, very poor and sad place, but Natasha, in a way, thrives there. I also have to admit I'm not completely sold on two teens falling in love in one day. Even though it is a touching story.
Emily: But then they see each other again at the end of the book! Did that not get you?
Mary: It did and it didn't. At first I thought, oh my gosh, what are the chances?! And was touched. But then I thought, hmmm this is just too perfect.
Emily: Ugh you're so heartless.
Mary: I aaaaam.
Emily: The end really got me. Because the SECURITY GUARD was there, so of course he was there too.
Mary: Aaaah the security guard! I love her! She was my favorite side character.
Emily: I loved the security guard, as I mentioned in my intro. I'm so happy she quit her job and became a flight attendant.
Mary: Yes! She is living her best life.
Emily: And I think it's really true that little things can make all the difference in a person's life.
Mary: It shows how even small chance meetings can change a life.
Emily: Like today when I was leaving Target, and a woman ran out in the parking lot to tell me I'd left my eggs. Like, it just made me rethink my whole perception of humanity.
Mary: That is so sweet! People like that make me feel good about others. Which is something we all need right now.
Emily: And I think that's really the message of the book. That small gestures really do have the power to change the world. In ways we might not ever know. And that just got me, and I cried, okay?
Mary: Yes, I agree that is worth a tear! Also, I think that the thing this book reminds me of, a thing I am pretty passionate about in YA lit, is that it is a-okay for Asian men to be in love stories and be attractive and masculine. Because so many texts and films and everything emasculate Asian men of all sorts, Which is dumb.
Emily: YES can someone please pass this message along to THE BACHELORETTE! I'm still salty about Rachel Lindsay eliminating all of her Asian contestants on night one.
Mary: Ugh yes! Me too! It's ridiculous.
Emily: The narrative that Asian men can't be masculine and/or love interests needs to change.
Mary: True. Because I think Asian men are very attractive. And what I think should dictate the world!
Emily: And also, like, clearly Asian men are out there having romances because we keep getting Asian babies.
Mary: Um right?
Emily: So let's try to represent that, okay?
Mary: That's one thing (I know I'm getting off track here) Master of None does well--it shows a variety of people just living a life. Dev has all sorts of friends just out there struggling the same.
Emily: Master of None is BAE.
Emily: We need to do a blog about how much we love Master of None. Or even a Podcast about how much Emily loves Aziz Ansari.
Mary: Yessssss. I gave The Sun is Also a Star a 5/5 on Goodreads because it really did touch me, even though I didn't cry. It reminded me there are good people, and so many different types of people!
Emily: Yes, I would agree. Except for the not crying part. I loved it
Mary: It's also stupidly well written
Emily: The chapter about Eyes... I was like DAMN.
Mary: Ugh! So good! I'd also suggest that any readers who enjoyed this book also check out Yoon's other novel, Everything, Everything. While it doesn't quite reach the heights of her sophomore book, it is still very good, and uses lots of illustrations and found objects to make the story seem real.
Emily: I'll admit that book does look cool, and while the story is a little predictable, her inventiveness with form does a lot of work to make up for that,
Mary: Yes for sure--the film tried to interpret some of that inventiveness and did a good job of it, but there's still nothing like the book for me.
Emily: Okay last thing I want to talk about... what did we think of the title of this book? I know Kelli was laughing about so many YA books having "star" in the title.
Mary: Hmmm It's a cool title, but it didn't really connect for me. I mean I can make some connections, but if I'm having to do that then it's not great probably. That being said I am bad at titles all around.
Emily: I think it's supposed to be a symbol of the science v. romance thread going on throughout the book, because she says she doesn't understand why so many people write about stars and not the sun. But then by the end of the book, she's like, oh, I get it now. Stars are really cool.
Mary: Yes, but the sun is also a staaaaaar. Hahaha. That's a good point though--Natasha is very scientific. And she often has trouble seeing things from multiple perspectives.
Emily: Which I think is also the message of the book. I think Yoon is saying, "It's so amazing how much we can understand about the world through science, and yet it doesn't explain everything."
Mary: Yes--and what a great message.
Emily: That's what I liked about the Eyes chapter so much. It starts of as an explanation of how eyes evolved into being what they are today, but is still like... but how do we get from that to eyes being the window to the soul? It's kind of magical.
Mary: It's definitely magical! Everyone should give this book a chance.
Emily: Yes! I agree!
And that's a wrap for our Summer YA Book Club, guys. We hope you enjoyed it, and we hope you'll check out the books in the series, if you didn't read along with us initially. Join us at the end of November for the start of YA Book Club: Winter Games. Our first book will be The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. See you then! <3
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The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.