Synopses. Spoilers. Sarcasm.
I LOVED Nicola Yoon’s new book, The Sun Is Also A Star. I hadn’t read Everything, Everything, but now I have to because this book was so good. Natasha’s family have been deported for being illegal Jamaican immigrants, and she’s spending her last day trying to find a loophole in a contract so she can stay with the life she’s become comfortable with. Daniel is also the son of immigrants, and is spending the day preparing for an interview to go to Yale, which his South Korean parents approve of. Considering this book takes place over one day, I thought I would hate or extremely dislike it. Two characters see each other, are drawn in to one another and spend the entire day falling in love. I love that I was proven wrong. Daniel was hilariously adorable, and I would love to date him. Tasha was intense and portrayed great skepticism, vulnerability, and kick-assery at once. I haven’t loved characters more than Natasha and Daniel since… oh jeez. Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses? Cath from Fangirl? They were both so relatable and well developed enough I completely believed the story, even though I was extremely skeptical when I found out the short timeline. Writing two POC main characters with immigrant parents was a fantastic choice for a large audience that are tired of reading middle-class white characters and for people of Asian and Jamaican decent to read about themselves. I applaud Nicola for the tactful and impactful way she wrote racism into this book, with two clashing cultures looking at each other with distrust. There were wonderful depictions of God and love and science all mixed together, and the ways they all connect us. Plus that epilogue was a really nice extra, as most books end and then we are made to think up the rest of the characters’ lives by ourselves. It was great to see that glimpse of the future that progressed as teenage love does.
To start with, this book was adorable, but not in a gushy-eyelash-batting-hearts-and-roses type of way. It was also hilarious in just my type of dry, sarcastic humor. Their first meeting in the record shop is a cute shoplifting ex-boyfriend scene, and the ‘date’ at the coffee shop where Daniel blows foam all over the table was great. “I’m cool. I’d totally date me.” Plus Daniel’s chapter titles were sassy as hell: Local teen trapped in parental vortex of expectation and disappointment. Would-be Casanova shakes cute girl’s hand, offers her home loan with reasonable interest rate. Major source of hilarity and adorableness was the scenes spent in the norebang (‘singing room’, Korean version of Kareoke). First of all, all the descriptions of Korean food kept making me hungry. Soft tofu soup, kimchi, pork barbecue…*drool*. Daniel singing his head off to make Nat smile made me smile too imagining him jamming out to k-Pop (Big Bang/Exo/VIXX/F(x) anyone?). That hot kiss afterwards was 100%, one of the best sexually-tense scenes I’ve read in YA. *Fans self* Daniel tells Nat about a Korean saying, koi no yokan, which translates loosely to “love at second sight”, when you know you’ve met someone you could fall in love with. I’ve definitely felt that for people before, so now I can go around impressing partners with my knowledge of Korean (Fun fact: I already speak Japanese!).
There were large themes of doing what you’re passionate about despite the future that may be planned for you. “Why choose the practical thing, the mundane thing? We are born to dream and make the things we dream about”. All the parents in this book are immigrants that want a better life for their kids, but that life isn’t what either of the kids want. Daniel fights with his brother and father over Tasha’s race and the fact he doesn’t want to go to Yale, and Tasha is angry her father secretly wishes he never had her and can’t get over his own wore-out dreams. Family tension this well written is sorely lacking in YA. The parental forgiveness scene between Nat and her family was sweet but raw, and having Daniel be there for such a vulnerable family moment increased the impact on the reader as well.
Also, Nat uses the ‘u’ in favourite too. See? Canadians ARE right!
*I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*