Nicola Yoon begins her young adult novel, The Sun is Also a Star with an explanation of Carl Sagan’s theory that to create an apple pie, you must first invent the universe. Science and math play a consistent role in this sweet, smart book which questions love, free will vs. destiny and much more.
This day in the life story is told through brief chapters that alternate between numerous characters and the random informational inserts, but primarily follows Natasha and Daniel. The two primary characters have no reason to have ever crossed paths. Call it fate, or destiny or luck, but meeting each other impacts their lives even if they don’t have the power or authority to have it impact their futures as they might wish.
Natasha is the daughter of Jamaican immigrants and is scheduled to be deported on the day the story takes place. She begins her day at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office in hopes of extending her stay in America. Daniel is the son of entrepreneurial Korean store owners with no risk of being deported. They have achieved a modicum of success but expect their two sons to become even more successful. Specifically they want them to become doctors. When Daniel’s older brother Charlie fails at this task, even more of the burden of success is laid on Daniel’s shoulders. On the day of the story Daniel is scheduled to have an induction interview with a Yale representative.
Natasha is practical and believes that if there is such a thing as love it is based on science and one’s chemical reactions, not feelings. She also doesn’t believe that such a thing could be permanent. Daniel is a romantic. He wants to be a poet and says that he can prove to Natasha that love can be scientific based on a story that he read in the paper.
Through a string of sometimes terrible events, the two characters meet and fall instantly in love knowing that they have only the one day together. They meet each other’s families and impact several stranger’s lives without even realizing it. Yoon glides through the story, pulling strings along the way which becomes integral to get to the end result. The concept of these interconnected strings is used to full effect on the gorgeous book cover. Yoon often mentions that the characters have a feeling of deja vu and in a section entitled “Multiverses” she states, “According to multiverse theory, every version of our past and future histories exists, just in an alternate universe.”
Yoon’s writing is brisk and effective and is never predictable. It offers up myriad philosophical questions for readers without pedantically supplying the answer. Can you make someone love you? Are dreams a luxury? Do things happen for a reason, or do things just happen? The Sun is Also a Star works on all levels: romance, theory, immigration story, bouncing narrative. It begs a second read and a good discussion.