Monday, December 19, 2016

The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)

It's Natasha's last day in the United States. She's lived here since she was 8 and it's the only home she knows, but her family is here illegally and they're being deported tonight. Daniel is the son of immigrants who want the best life possible for him, so he's on his way to an interview for Yale even though he doesn't especially want to go there or become a doctor like his parents want him to. When Natasha and Daniel meet, spending time together becomes more important than anything else they are supposed to do, but the clock is ticking.

Told in alternating points of view by Natasha and Daniel, there are occasional chapters told by those around them including Natasha's father, Daniel's brother, a security guard at the immigration office, and an attorney. The way their lives intersect will make you think about destiny, fate, coincidence, and how everything in the universe leads up to a single moment.

Natasha is ruled by logic and reason. She loves science and math and believes that everything happens for a reason, but those reasons are cause-and-effect and coincidences, not magical. Daniel is a poet, and although his parents have already decided he'll go to Yale and become a doctor, he would rather follow his passions. He feels like he and Natasha were meant to meet today, and had they not met the way they did, surely they would have just crossed paths later. He believes in destiny. Despite their very different views they are inextricably drawn to each other, and watching how this plays out is pretty delightful.

Among the issues tackled are race and immigration. Daniel's Korean family own a store that sells black hair-care products, though his family members are fairly racist. His brother is simply horrible when he meets Natasha, and his father isn't much better. Natasha has bigger problems than these assholes though, since she's about to get kicked out of the country by a system she sees as unfair. She says "If people who were actually born here had to prove they were worthy enough to live in America, this would be a much less populated country." She also points out: "America's not really a melting pot. It's more like one of those divided metal plates with separate sections for starch, meat, and veggies." I felt so bad for Natasha, and of course it's worse to think about how real this situation is for so many people in America. I can't imagine being forced to leave the country I grew up in for a place that is considered dangerous and devoid of opportunities to have a fulfilling life.

The short chapters, short sentences, and snappy dialogue propel the reader through the story quickly, and because of the tension surrounding Natasha's impending deportation you'll just want to keep turning pages to find out what happens. This story asks a lot of big questions about the direction our lives take. It will give you a lot to think about, and I suspect you won't forget these characters or their stories anytime soon.

No comments: