The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

5/5 stars

The Sun Is Also a Star is Nicola Yoon’s latest young adult novel and features Natasha, an undocumented immigrant on the eve of her family’s deportation back to Jamaica, and Daniel, an American-born son of Korean immigrants.  Natasha is desperately searching for a way to stay in her adopted country, and is given one last shot when an immigration office worker puts her in touch with one of the best immigration attorneys in the city.  Daniel has an overachieving older brother to whom he has always been compared and found wanting.  He’s in the position of finally being the favored son when his older brother leaves Harvard as Daniel prepares to go to his own interview for Yale.

When Natasha and Daniel meet by chance, their romance unfolds during this single day.  Natasha only believes in observable facts and data, and is uninterested in metaphysical things like fate and true love, but Daniel’s sincerity proves devastating to her defenses; she is a cynic only by dint of being a wounded idealist.  Natasha can’t let herself be a dreamer when her father’s dreams have only led to disappointment and disaster for their family.  Daniel is struggling to make a firm decision about his future in the face of parental expectations, all the while hoping that fate will lend a helping hand.

This basic plot outline doesn’t really do this book justice.  While the action of the story revolves around the central romance and the question of whether Natasha will be deported, the author delves into the main characters and secondary characters with compassion and insight.  Interspersed throughout the book are charming and lovely anecdotes and vignettes about different side characters, ideas and theories, and histories; almost their own side stories that really highlight how creative and appealing this book is.

Yoon also fantastically illustrates what it can be like to be a child of immigrants whose rigid ideas of success are stifling, and further explores the chasm in understanding between first and second generation immigrants, and how the natural divide between parents and young adults can be exacerbated by essentially being from different countries as well.  The side stories, as much as Natasha and Daniel’s primary story, illuminate the complexities of this parent/child relationship.  The novel ultimately leaves us with the simple but not so straightforward idea that love changes everything.

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