Monday, 13 February 2017

A Review of The Sun Is Also A Star

The Sun Is Also A Star is a book by Nicola Yoon, who also wrote Everything, Everything. It follows Natasha, a teenage girl who is an undocumented immigrant about to be deported, and Daniel, a Korean boy struggling under the weight of his parents’ expectations. Throughout the book, we are also given insights into other character’s lives, which makes everyone from the main characters parents to the waitress at the Korean food place feel like well-realised characters.

The book approached the immigrant experience from two angles. Natasha, born in Jamaica who came to the USA illegally when she was eight, and Daniel, born in America to Korean parents. Daniel struggles a little with his identity, something which I know many children of immigrants may relate to. Is he Korean, American or Korean-American? Too American or too Korean? His parents would say too American, his brother thinks he’s too Korean, Daniel considered himself Korean-American, and Natasha doesn’t think he’s Korean if he was born here. Four different people with four different opinions on this subject. Obviously, Natasha’s struggles are different. As the only one in her family who is willing to keep fighting the deportation order, she’s dealing with immigration lawyers and USCIS. These two characters are a reminder that every immigrants experience is different.
However, the whole book doesn’t revolve around Natasha’s troubles with immigration or Daniel’s problems with his family. It acknowledges that people have lives that aren’t just related to the colour of their skin, but also brings up the issues faced because of it. Natasha and Daniel also struggle with their feelings towards each other. In Natasha’s case, she runs into her cheating ex, and is worried about her best friend moving on to college without her.

This is a book that will break your heart, mend it, and break it all over again. This book will have your feelings dangling on a string from the second you first open the page. Her characters screw up, they make mistakes, they have flaws. Toeing the line between giving characters’ flaws without making them unlikeable is hard. Yoon succeeds, managing to keep some characters on one side of the line and cheerfully throwing other characters irredeemably beyond it. And some people do make huge mistakes that screw other people’s lives up, not just their own, and some awful people can do one nice thing.

You know how I love books that take you to another place and make you feel as though you live there? This book does this for New York City. The author’s obvious love for the place comes through in her descriptions from midtown Manhattan to Harlem and Brooklyn. She also describes in a huge amount of detail things like eating soon dubo. She describes it so well I felt like I was eating it along with them.

You also might learn something, whether it’s something physics related from Natasha or from an aside about the prevalence of South Korean store owners in the African-American hair care industry. These asides never take away from the actual story, nor do they get annoying. They are relevant to things happening in the story, and Yoon finds appropriate places to stop before starting the new chapter.

In a normal book, I would complain about the amount of coincidences. Especially in a place as large as New York, how could you keep running into the same people? However, this isn’t a normal book. It’s a book that talks about whether all these coincidences mean something, or if they’re just unrelated chance events in someone’s life. Are we in the exact right place at the exact right time because we’re meant to be, or do things just happen without purpose? And regardless of what side of that line you fall on, you will get something out of reading The Sun Is Also A Star.

As a book dealing with the struggles faced by immigrants, it is one I recommend everyone to read. No ‘especially for this group’ this time – I literally just think everyone should read this book.

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