Star-Crossed Lovers for a Modern World
Star-crossed lovers . . . by the time that nearly every high school student reads Romeo and Juliet, the battle between love and tremendous odds has become one of the most common motifs in all forms of the media they consume.
Songwriters pen lyrics about trying to make love work–in opposition to fierce outside forces. Countless movies and television shows depict relationships blossoming, and sometimes subsequently wilting, as friends, family, and even pets put forth major resistance.
But the world of literature is the big kahuna for complicated romance, and YA literature has a corner on the market. It is only fitting that young people make the best star-crossed lovers (even Shakespeare thought so), since their relationships are under more scrutiny and supervision than those of most adults.
I’ve read some truly excellent YA novels that have come out in the last few years, and are about conflicted or ill-fated romance (Eleanor & Park, Like No Other, Daughter of Smoke & Bone). But The Sun is Also a Star tops my list. (I’m not alone; see Awards & Accolades in the Book Details section of this post).
The day that Natasha and Daniel meet is one that is already slated to change both of their lives.
Daniel is headed to his Yale admission interview. If it goes well, he’s headed to Connecticut to become a doctor, just like his parents have always wanted.
Natasha’s family is being deported to Jamaica–tonight. She’s hoping to meet with a lawyer to figure out a way to stay. They are in the middle of major moments in their lives, but when they meet, they both have entirely new reasons for staying in New York. Do they dare disturb the universe and its plan already in progress? Or is being together part of the plan?
Why It’s Worth Reading
There are a lot of sappy teen romances out there. This isn’t one of them.
The Sun is Also a Star is a clever, sincere, hilarious–yet poignant–story about two young people who don’t have time or space in their lives for each other. But they just cannot help themselves. They come from completely different cultures and have completely different life philosophies. No one would ever put them together, and some are actively trying to keep them apart. But the universe has other plans.
As an adult, I appreciated that while this is a teen romance of the sweeping-off-the-feet variety, this relationship is not one dimensional. Their lives continue when they are apart. Their problems do not simply disappear because they have fallen in love. This is love in the real world: consuming, but complex.
If the story itself were not enough, author Nicola Yoon also includes chapters that depart from the narrative, and which function as informative asides. This adds tremendous depth and oft-needed background to the plot.
One of these asides, for example, might focus on a minor character with whom Natasha interacts for only a few minutes, giving history and explanations about how their momentary interaction has a lasting impact. Later in the story, after the reader learns that Daniel’s South Korean parents own a black-hair-care store, one of these chapters briefly but compellingly explains the fascinating history of the South Korean hair trade, which led to nearly all black-hair-care shops in New York being owned by immigrants from South Korea.
There is a reason that this novel made seemingly all of the “best of” lists in 2016, and was a finalist in multiple award categories, including the John Steptoe New Talent Award (a sub-category of the Coretta Scott King Award) and National Book Award. As YA star-crossed lover novels go, it’s hard to beat.
Title: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Reading Level: AR = 4.7, Lexile = HL650L
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Awards/Accolades: 2017 Printz Award finalist, 2017 John Steptoe Award for New Talent, 2016 National Book Award finalist and at least five starred reviews!
Bethany Bratney (@nhslibrarylady) is a National Board Certified School Librarian at Novi High School and was the recipient of the 2015 Michigan School Librarian of the Year Award. She reviews YA materials for School Library Connection magazine and for the LIBRES review group. She is an active member of the Oakland Schools Library Media Leadership Consortium as well as the Michigan Association of Media in Education. She received her BA in English from Michigan State University and her Masters of Library & Information Science from Wayne State University.