Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Sun is Also a Star

Title:  The Sun is Also a Star
Author:  Nicola Yoon
Publication Information:  Delcorte Press. 2016. 384 pages.
ISBN:  0553496689 / 978-0553496680

Book Source:  I received this book through the Blogging for Books program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Carl Sagan said that if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe."

Favorite Quote:  "What if we are just a digression in someone else's history?"

The cover of this book makes complete sense after having read the book. It is nail and string art where the threads cross and form so many intersections. In the hard cover edition, the cover is textured such that you can feel the words of the title.

I choose to read the book based on its description. Two teenagers from immigrant families meet. Natasha is in the country illegally because of decisions her parents make. Her father chased a dream to America. Her mother and Natasha followed. Her younger brother Peter is born in the US. Natasha and her family are now facing deportation back to Jamaica even though this is the only life Natasha and her brother have ever known. Daniel is the younger son of parents who immigrated from Korea, searching for a better life. They own a business and want their sons to pursue the American dream of an Ivy League education and a professional career. Daniel wants something different. The burden of family expectations weighs heavily.

That focal point of the immigrant experience is the strong undercurrent of this book. However, even stronger is how the story revolves around the idea whether things in life happen for a reason or randomly. The structure of the book really lends itself to that debate. The book is written in very short - 1 to 2 pages - chapters, each from a different point of view. Of course, most depict Natasha and Daniel's point of view. Many chapters, though are from the perspective of the lives that Natasha and Daniel's lives touch - parents, an attorney, a waitress, a hit and run driver, an Immigration security guard, and several others. A few chapters are not from an individual perspective, but rather an explanation of a word, a concept, or a history.

I love the foundation of the immigration experience and the premise of the reason for things that this book builds on. So, why not a higher rating then? Warranted, I am not the target audience for this book, but a few things about the book fall short for me, particularly for a young adult audience. First of all, this is an insta-love-story. Daniel and Natasha's relationship goes from just meeting to eternal love in less than a day - a day already filled with other overwhelming experiences for both of them. I don't buy into the love story. Second, the book introduces adult infidelity, which is unnecessary for the story line and unnecessary for a young adult audience. The fact that the impact of that no remorse or sadness is shown for the impact on that infidelity on that family is a jarring note in the book. Thirdly, the reason Natasha's story ends the way it does is not because of due process or mere chance but because of a conscious decision. Poor decision making and outright deceit about that decision again is a jarring and unnecessary note in the book.

Overall, the structure of the book works. It begins to mimic the cover of the book, as the threads of these individual lives intertwine and have effects far beyond what the individual can imagine. Some connections are literally life altering. The fact that this book covers only the period of one day makes that impact all the stronger. Even a momentary, seemingly small interaction can change the direction of a life, a lesson we should all remember.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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