Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Book Review: The Sun Is Also A Star

After reading Nicola Yoon’s debut I had incredibly high hopes for this novel; once again, I rapidly found myself enjoying her characters and also her writing style. This novel is almost entirely focussed on two people who meet by chance and take the time to see where life and time are able to lead them for a day. The writing style is great, once you take some time to adjust to it’s unconventionality; the name of either Daniel, Natasha or another (lesser) character tops the start of a chapter alongside a small illustration which was a nice way of definitively knowing which perspective was going to be put across to the reader. Similarly, some chapters contained small bursts of information, which was made clear through a small illustration and a brief sub heading before the descriptive and explanative text that followed that chapter. These small bursts were actually rather key to the understanding of the overall plot; it’s a really cleverly used literary technique. The chapters were excellent in terms of length; long enough to garner interest but never so long that you lost interest, which made this book one that can only be described as difficult to put down.

The two main characters, Daniel and Natasha are as different as two people can possibly be. In terms of physically, Daniel is of Asian heritage, more specifically Korean and Natasha is Jamaican, however I loved how the author used each character to describe the author. It was a great way to understand how they’re each perceived by the world. Mentally, they’re also very different. Daniel is a dreamer, desperate to persue a creative flair that flows inside him, Limited by a family who expects a medical expert. Natasha has an incredibly scientific mind, driven to solve a problem and prevent any future problems, although we see her own creativity in the her sense of style and musical choice. Much of the story is delivered through their thoughts, how they get to know each other over the course of a day. Natasha is due to be deported that night, Daniel is supposed to be applying for Yale to become a Doctor. This is a novel that explores the idea of love at first sight; that you can meet someone by chance and have an instant connection with them, although in this case it’s arguably not meant to be.

Throughout their day spent together, Daniel realises that he really doesn’t want to become a Doctor, regardless of what his parents will think. From that moment, he intends to make his own way in the world. In a sense, this sudden decision after months and years of obeying seems to have influenced by Natasha’s fate. He knows he’s lucky enough to be able to have a choice, she isn’t so lucky to have a choice of staying in America, no matter how much she tries to fight for herself. One thing that I really liked about the writing style of this book, is that although Daniel and Natasha were the main narrators, we were given glimpses into some of the smaller characters minds in some chapters; these small snippets of information are actually very sad, often explaining the reasons why some of the characters are hard to crack. This novel does tackle some difficult themes, such as deportation, racism, depression and relationships. It explores them on different levels, often through situations or uncomfortable conversations but it’s a shame that some of the themes weren’t covered a little more; this novel definitely seemed a little short, it could’ve explored some points and tied up some ends more clearly. This is a tale of cynicism versus romanticism and the boy meets girl cliché is handled well, it’s not exaggerated.

Overall, I liked this book because it surprised me. I enjoy being surprised, I thought I had guessed the ending and the point of this novel within the first few pages but I was wrong, which is always a good thing. The twist was a shock, actually and definitely stayed true to the cynical side of this book. Life is never easy, but you have to keep going even if you sometimes don’t want to. I liked how Yoon left a lot of this book to the imagination of the reader, including the ending; at times it was very sad but that’s not a bad thing. Life isn’t always perfect and this novel definitely emphasised that idea, I was surprised by that, as the majority of Young Adult fiction often stays on the positive side of life, but this novel was very realistic, particularly with regards to deportation. Of the two novels that I’ve read by Yoon, I preferred this one simply because it felt more believable; yes, it does reference a lot to chance and love at first sight, but that being said, most of themes tackled were done realistically and with an understanding that sometimes things are beyond your control. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys unusual writing styles or wants to read a story that’s cute but not exactly full of happiness; it’s definitely a coming of a age novel.

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