When deciding what book to read next, I try to think of ones that I’ve been hearing a lot about and/or ones that I think have potential for future use in my classroom. Adding Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star to my PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge reading list was a direct result of both these considerations. I was originally assigned a fall semester course that provided me with the opportunity to add young adult (YA) literature to my required booklist. While I’ve been assigned a new course that cannot include YA lit, three of the books I’ve completed for my reading challenge were read in consideration for that prior class: The Sun Is Also A Star, The Hate U Give, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. While I enjoyed all three of these novels in different ways (it’s hard to use the term “enjoy” when referring to The Hate U Give), I’ve chosen my favorite of the three for my first book review on this blog. If you’ve read any or all of these three YA novels, though, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them in the comments section below.
One final note before getting to the “meat and potatoes” of this post. I plan for each book review post to have the same elements:
- a brief introduction
- a “basic information” section
- and, a review of the book from my perspective as
- a reader
- an educator
- a fan (as in, someone who takes part in fandom)
The Sun Is Also A Star
Some Basic Information
- Author: Nicola Yoon
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication Date: November 1, 2016
- Page Length: 384 pages (hardcover)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553496689
- ISBN-13: 978-0553496680
- Buy: Amazon
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
A Review in Three Parts
Reader: This novel, in large part because it is told from multiple point of views (POV), has a great set of characters that are easy to either identify with, dislike, or feel sympathy for as the plot moves along and reaches its unusual conclusion (it ends with an “alternate epilogue”). While protagonists Natasha and Daniel feature most heavily, there are chapters told from the POVs of secondary and even tertiary characters. I think this narrative decision is one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this novel so much; it forced me to consider the perspective of characters like Natasha’a father, who was so easy to dislike when introduced to him via his daughter’s perspective. The brief interludes of real-world contextual information, such as the racially complex history of Daniel’s family business, also really endeared me to the structure of this novel. Of course, readers who don’t like having the main narrative interspersed with information-laden moments will probably grow tired of this structural choice very quickly, but they add so much relevant knowledge that readers should definitely take the time to read through them. These moments and the book as a whole come together to create an engrossing and socially relevant reading experience.
Teacher: As someone who teaches children’s and young adult literature (ChYALit) to young adults and many future elementary school teachers, I definitely think this book should be included in any YA literature course. Instructors of literature courses (YA or otherwise) with themes tied to portrayals of immigration, race, interracial couples, and/or social (in)justice will find this novel a particularly strong contender for their booklist. For those instructors looking for a novel with a complex narrative structure, this book is also for you. With multiple POVs, contextual information-based chapters, and an “alternate epilogue,” this novel is a great example of how narratives are not always straightforward (re)tellings of a story. For any readers of this post who are high school teachers, this novel is definitely a great book to add to your list, as well. Wrapped in a star-crossed lovers plot that will appeal to many teenage readers, the sooner we get students talking about social issues like the ones portrayed in this novel, the sooner we can start making changes for the better in our societies.
Fan: As someone who has taken part in online fandom since waiting for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to be published, after reading a book or watching a movie I often imagine different ways fans can take up what they’ve just read/watched and make it their own. A common trend in online fanfiction is to retell the story from a character’s POV that is not featured in the source text (the book/movie/play/etc.). While this novel is already told from multiple POVs, I can still see a thoughtful reader writing a fanfic of this story solely from the perspective of Natasha and/or Daniel’s parents. That fic would be a fascinating read, in my opinion. Of course, more common responses by fans would likely be continuing and/or changing the love story of Natasha and Daniel. There is a major time jump in the alternate epilogue, so like with the Harry Potter series, there is a lot of room for fans to write their own versions of what those years in between were like. I didn’t find any fanfics based on this novel on fanfiction.net or archiveofourown.org, but I definitely see that changing if this book is ever adapted into a movie.