Book Review: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

While I read this book a couple years ago, with the movie coming out recently, I considered this a great time to revisit my thoughts on The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicole Yoon. This book is a Young Adult Fiction/Romance, and was published in 2016.

Book Review Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Some Background

This book is the second published work of Yoon, who is also the author of The New York Times bestselling book, Everything, Everything. Yoon sets her story in New York City, a crowded landscape used to show that each individual can have an impact on another person’s story. While the book is mainly told from the point of view of Daniel and Natasha, there are also biographical chapters on many of the side characters. Yoon includes short chapters of the occasional word, place, or idea that connects to the characters.

A normal day in New York is transformed into commentaries on possibly controversial topics ranging from illegal immigrants to the science of love. While the book is crammed with diverse characters and interwoven sub-plots, The Sun Is Also a Star might not have reached a verdict on its audacious claim: love is controlled by both fate and science.

“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.”

Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star

Summary

Daniel is first generation American. His parents moved to America from Korea and own a black hair shop. While Daniel does not resent his Korean heritage as much as his older brother Charles, he struggles with his love of poetry and his parents’ pressure on him to become a doctor. Daniel succumbs to their will and plans to attend an interview determining if he will be recommended to Harvard. His reluctance leads to distraction, and he winds up in a music store after following Natasha (a stranger at the time) on a whim.

Natasha is an immigrant from Jamaica, who relies heavily on science to sustain her. The arts have scorned her family’s efforts of having the American dream, as her father, a denied but talented actor, exposes their illegal residency after a DUI. Natasha spends her last day meeting with an immigration lawyer, who is caught up in his own romantic drama. Though she is a firm follower of science, the music of her headphones causes her to enter a trance-like state as she enters a music store.

“I don’t really want to know her story. I just want the music and the moment.”

Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star

Critique: the Good and the Bad

Just as the back of Natasha’s jacket reads “Deus Ex Machina,” the story eludes to the fact that there might be someone pulling the characters around like reluctant puppets on a string. Daniel addresses the main issue of the novel in his lines, “I don’t really want to know her story. I just want the music and the moment.” While we read about Jamaican and Korean words and the backgrounds of side characters, the main characters remain ignorant and therefore unaffected by the people around them. Or at least the people that they are not romantically intrigued by.

Most teen fiction novels do little to enlarge the awareness of others amongst teenagers. While Daniel and Natasha may not recognize this impact entirely, Yoon still tries to encourage the awareness of others’ feelings, backgrounds, and cultural differences by writing about them herself. Through her small commentary chapters on words and ideas, Yoon addresses conflict between Jamaican and Korean culture when they are mixed with American ideals and dreams. The book also introduces teenagers to the world of immigration laws and two cultures they might not understand.

Though the novel tries to address the stereotypes of Korean, Jamaican, and American culture, Yoon’s characters lack the ability to escape them. Korean heritage plays a large part in why Daniel’s family wants him to be a doctor. Natasha’s Jamaican family are illegal immigrants and are being forced to leave the country. Yoon captures the dialects of Jamaicans and Koreans, but she leaves us wondering if she has presented a new way to look at Koreans and Jamaicans or if we are only meant to widen our perspective of the humanity behind the typecasts we may have formed.

Does Yoon Actually Overcome the Wave of YA Fiction?

Yoon is more successful at promoting the inner character of Natasha. She does not try to hide her main characters’ skin colors, but that does not define their core beings. Yoon writes, “It takes three years for Natasha’s natural hair to grow in fully. She doesn’t do it to make a political statement. In fact, she liked having her hair straight…She does it because she wants to try something new. She does it simply because it looks beautiful.” Yoon might be contributing some personal experience into this character. Her own heritage gives life to Natasha’s personality.

While Natasha makes hair choices based on personal values, Daniel wears a ponytail to make a statement against his parents. Daniel’s ideals and culture directly contrast with Natasha’s. Where she is science, he is art. But while Natasha’s character is defined by her reason, confidence, and drive, Daniel is mostly marked by his poetry writing and sudden obsession with Natasha.

On that note, Yoon introduces us to another stereotype: steamy teen romance. After Daniel and Natasha meet in the music store, they decide to test a theory that strangers can fall in love in one day based on three sets of questions that increase in intimacy. The science experiment consumes the rest of the novel, with interesting results. For one, it works—on the same level as most other teen fiction novels. The teenagers claim to experience love, but only when they experience intense physical contact. But what the characters first sought to discover seemed to be a deeper concept than tongues in mouths. So what can be taken away from the quick progression of the teenage love? Maybe Natasha says it best in her line about love songs, ‘“Easy…lust.”’

This comment in comparison with the climax of Natasha and Daniel’s day together offers conflicting messages about what Yoon classifies as scientifically provable love. While Daniel and Natasha believe that this moment of physical affection proves that they can fall in love in a single day, the two spiral apart after this moment in the novel. The couple go from thinking in unison, “I can’t get enough. I can’t get close enough. Something chaotic and insistent builds inside me” to “Her eyes have been replaced with storm clouds.” Instead of creating a convincing argument for love at first sight, Yoon seems to prove what every teen romance has proven before.

Conclusions about the Book

It’s obvious that Yoon desires to showcase diversity and convince teenagers that love, fate, and science can coexist. But as the last scene take place several years into the future, on a plane where both characters meet by extremely vague and downright fishy chance, Yoon’s writing lacks the tact that real fate often shows. Sometimes people just don’t meet again.

The Positive

  • A great showcase of diversity
  • Empathy of different cultures
  • A clash of different worlds unlike most YA Fiction

The Negative

  • Unclear, ambiguous endings…twice
  • Characters that conflict with central themes of the narrative
  • A hallow example of love

For Further Information on the Book and Movie

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Nicola Yoon, Image from Goodreads.com

The Sun Is Also a Star has now become a movie, and you can watch the trailer by clicking on this link here. You can also learn more about the author by visiting her website: http://www.nicolayoon.com/#welcome-new.

Road Trip to LA the Cheap Way!

Road Trip to LA
Road Trip to LA with your cat and all your stuff

Transportation to LA by Car

Mitchell and I chose to drive to Los Angeles from Indiana, partly because we knew we couldn’t fit all of our stuff into a compact space to fly. We also were freaking BROKE and needed a way to get there both cheaply and—honestly—still kind of in a fun way. I had never been out west, so I knew that driving to LA was going to be both exhausting and full of landscapes I had never seen before. So we decided to road trip our way there. In three days. With a cat. And a car full of everything we needed for the next two weeks.

Packing to Get to LA

Here’s the thing, we used a U-Pack system to pack all of us stuff from Indiana to LA. They basically drop off a cube on your driveway, and you have to pack your stuff. Then they drive it on a truck to wherever you’re moving. This was a great idea for us (it was cheap and we’re pretty strong and able to move large objects ourselves).

I was also super impressed with how much stuff we were able to fit in there. We had a sofa, desks, like ten boxes of books (mine). This is the video that made us believe that we could actually pack all our crap in a little cube.

The problem was they kind of…picked up the crate a day earlier than they were supposed to. So we had a lot of stuff we had to jam into the car and drive with. So not only did we have our cat Dany with us, but we also had to wrangle her out of the suitcases, blankets, and other various objects so she wouldn’t get smooshed. Eventually she found nice spots like in the space between the driver’s back and the chair.

Road trip to LA with your cat
Road trip with the cat (I swear she’s comfortable)
Road trip to LA with cat
Driving to LA isn’t the same without your cat

Camping During the Road Trip

We ended up using a service called Hip Camp (https://www.hipcamp.com) which is basically like a Air B&B but with camping out in someone’s yard. I was a little nervous to be honest, because the idea sounded like some great start to a horror movie. But when we stopped in Colorado, the guy’s yard was basically a huge plot of land that he had turned into a campsite. Then in Utah, it was a big open field with a lot of space between campers. It was about thirty dollars each night, and they didn’t mind that we had a cat and a car full of everything you usually don’t bring camping with you. We pitched a tent and slept with our kitty dearest’s litter box just a few feet away.

Sights Along the Road Trip

Road trip through Colorado and Nevada
Somewhere between Colorado and Nevada

I’ve travelled to several places with gorgeous mountains before making this drive. I just loved how different the the mountains looked as you drove through each state. It was also very fun to drive straight downhill in Colorado in the pouring rain (not really, I don’t think I’ve clenched my entire body for that long). I had flown over these mountains before, but it’s really not the same. Even if you find a cheap flight, you won’t be able to experience this kind of view.

Road trip to LA through Colorado
Driving downhill in Colorado after the rain

Driving to LA Road Trip Style

One thing we did to break up the drive was stop every four hours. This may be too long of a time for some people, but we were able to map out our stops at gas stations (using https://www.gasbuddy.com) and stretch our legs before switching who was driving. All in all it was over thirty hours of driving over three days. Let me tell you, I will not be doing another road trip for a very long time.

Short Story Press Release: “Bottlenecked”

Short story “Bottlenecked” available on Kindle
“Bottlenecked” available for Kindle

Nightmares Are the Gateway to Creativity

When I was in my senior year of college, I woke up from nightmares several times a week. After months of this, I decided to do something different than I had done before. Usually I might journal the nightmares. But instead, I sat down at my computer and wrote them like I would write a story.

The way I dream is not what I would call normal. I often dream that I am not myself but someone I don’t even know. So when I started writing these nightmares down as stories, they formed a more cohesive plot, filling in the cracks left from my sleeping mind, and created full-fleshed characters.

Now I am working on a collection of these short stories, releasing each of them with a cover of my own design. I hope that people are able to experience the disorientation and confusion nightmares often bring—but in a more enjoyable way!


You can buy a copy for yourself if you follow this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XZJB62Z/ref=dbs_a_def_awm_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

First Month in LA: Finding Jobs and Staying Alive

“The walls of your comfort zone are lovingly decorated with your lifelong collection of favorite excuses.”— Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass at Making Money

Living in Los Angeles without a Job
The view from our apartment hallway

Finding a Job in Los Angeles

After nearly a month of living in LA, Mitchell and I have yet to find work that will actually support us. You know, pay the rent (an amount you definitely don’t want to know) and generally stay alive. There’s a lot to be said for people who just up and leave a decent job to go somewhere completely different in the hopes of finding a career in what you actually love to do.

Here’s a list of what I would love to do:

  • Be a published author
  • Be a children’s book illustrator
  • Work with a company that feels like family
  • Write songs
  • Paint and take photos

And what was I currently doing in Indiana? Being a Technical Writer for the US Navy. An intimidating, yet satisfying job to tell people about. But it wasn’t what I wanted. Not really. Meanwhile Mitchell, who is a great film writer, was working at a golf course. With Indiana weather…let’s just say he wasn’t getting much hours.

Sites Used to Find a Job (and My Ratings)

  • Indeed.com
  • Career Builder
  • LinkedIn
  • A Google Search (AKA “Jobs in Los Angeles Near Me”)
  • Neuvoo
  • Zip Recruiter

Indeed (4 out of 5)

So Indeed is how I’ve found most of my jobs in my life as of right now. It’s how I started as a Barista at Starbucks, and how my contractor hired me as a Tech Writer. They have a decent search engine, a really good variety of jobs, and a nice application process.

The downside…

Sometimes employers can set up a test on Indeed. A test that may or may not have anything to actually do with the position and has ridiculously short-timed, detailed questions. Some aren’t too bad. But if you mess one up, you can’t retake it for another 6 months. So yeah, that kind of sucks.

Also, there are some sketchy AF jobs posted on this site. I applied for a position that I thought was an architectural company. But when I showed up for an interview, it was a entirely different company that was doing some crazy telemarketing scam-like calls that were never listed on the website at all. So…just be careful.

Career Builder (2 out of 5)

I found a couple interesting jobs on here, but nothing actually applicable to me and where I wanted to go in my career right now (which is ironic and sad considering the name of the site). I also got super spammed by their emails, which is pretty normal for these kinds of websites, but this one was worse than most. Their site was also much more difficult to navigate.

LinkedIn (2 out of 5)

I think this is one is more of a joke than most. I have a lot of connections on LinkedIn. But most of them are, well, in Indiana. Also, their “easy apply” for jobs doesn’t usually let you put a cover letter for employers. And some employers won’t even look at your resume without a cover letter. Plus the jobs listed are not as extensive as Indeed or even a Google Search. So that’s not great either. It’s also SUPER fun to see all your connections posting about great things in their jobs when you’re trying to find one yourself. Very self-confident-boosting.

A Google Search (3 out of 5)

So this was actually how I ended up using so many different job sites. What Google does is lets you see a lot of different websites’ postings and will take you to those sites when you click on a job. The job listing is not very extensive though. And also I’m not really happy with any of the sites it took me to, so maybe it’s helpful for finding other things that might be helpful? Google did show me a lot different options than Indeed had posted, so that was a plus.

Neuvoo (1 out of 5)

Funny story, I don’t remember signing up for notifications for this site, but they literally text me everyday and say something along the lines of: “Postmates wants to hire you.”

One: they would hire anyone. That’s not what I’m LOOKING for.

Two: if you click on the link in the text, you’ll see that the employer doesn’t actually want YOU exactly. They’ve just posted, you know, a job opportunity. For anyone.

I could stop these texts, but I find them strangely reassuring and entertaining. I like to think of it as a game of “who wants me to work for them tonight?”

Zip Recruiter (1 out of 5)

This one’s kind of funny too. Because it literally didn’t and still won’t work for me. I don’t know what happened, but no matter how many times I reset my password and tell my email that emails from this company are okay (even though they’re really not to be honest) I couldn’t get on the site more than one time. I only gave it a one star because they actually had decent customer service who *tried* to help me. It didn’t work. Whoops.

Conclusion

I think I’ll stick with Indeed for now, even though I kind of hate it in several ways. Finding jobs is really tough, especially when you don’t want to work for a company that you don’t plan on sticking with in the long term. But we must persevere and keep our chins tilted towards the sky.