Confession: I’m borderline aromantic. There’s just something about romance as a genre that turns me off, in large part because I’m not a romantic person myself. There’s something about these grand gestures that seems contrived and insincere. So when I heard about The Sun is Also a Star getting a lot of press, I initially wrote it off as another melodramatic teenage lovefest. I don’t know what possessed me to check it out, but I did. And I’m glad I did, because this book was the most refreshing take on romance I’ve encountered in a long time.
I like my romances to take place on the sidelines, secondary plots to the need to save the world or defeat the evil wizard. While the romance in this book was certainly an important part of the plot, it wasn’t the defining driving force in the story. Natasha is a Jamaican immigrant on the eve of her family’s deportation, desperately searching for a way to stay in the US. Daniel is the son of Korean immigrants, burying his desire to make art beneath the facade of the dutiful son. While the bulk of the story alternates between their viewpoints, we also get a look at other characters we meet along the way, like the unhappy security guard and the enamored legal assistant. I absolutely loved this technique. I have kind of a thing for minor characters and sidekicks, so it was wonderful to see the way these “NPCs” drove the story with their actions – and in at least one significant case, inaction.
The romance aspect of the story was whirlwind, but it never felt forced or artificial. There’s a sort of recurring theme of celestial elements, and despite all the talk of fate you can’t help marvel at these two people being thrown together at this particular point in their lives. It feels significant without being hammered home. This isn’t a story of love overcoming everything. It’s a story about love just sort of happening.
We also get a lot of fascinating cultural insight, questions about race and class and ethnicity. Daniel’s family has made a living selling black hair products, a scene I first heard about in the documentary Good Hair some years ago. The question of whether or not what Natasha and Daniel have is bigger than their families is secondary to whether or not it’s big enough for them.
And the ending! God, I loved the ending. It was so bittersweet, happy but also realistic and down-to-earth. Nicola Yoon really hit it out of the ball park, with this one. I haven’t yet read her other novel, Everything Everything, but after this it’s definitely on my list. In short, I highly recommend The Sun is Also a Star – I gave it 5/5 stars.
Up next, I’m hoping to get through Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. I’ve had it checked out forever and a half now, and I’ve only managed to slog through the first few pages. It’s not capturing me as readily as Dumplin’ did, but I’m trying not to sell it short without giving it a proper chance. I haven’t been in much of a reading mood lately, to be fair. Hopefully things will pick up soon!