“To make a thing as simple as an apple pie, you have to create the whole wide world.”
“The sun is also a star” was the first book I have ever read in one sitting. Not only because the book was really captivating, but also because I was stuck for almost 7 hours on a bus with no other activities. And I was so glad I didn’t have any, because 100% of my focus was invested into following the story of Natasha and Daniel.
What’s the story about?
The story centres around Natasha, a Jamaican-American girl who is getting deported in 24 hours alongside her family and Daniel, a Korean-American boy who wants to pursue his artistic side, but his family has other plans regarding his future.
While the story unveils how Natasha and Daniel start to interact, we also get a glimpse of all the side characters, learning their life stories and, most important, why did they react the way they did in a certain situation. One of the side characters returns at the end of the book with a very important role. But more of this is the spoiler section below.
this section contains spoilers
Family – The idea of family is brought up almost every 5 pages. It is one of the leitmotifs of the book actually. First of all, we are experiencing each character’s family, starting with Daniel’s. Daniel Bae’s family is a conservative family with very strict views regarding their lifestyle and future. The boys already have their future planned, they have to perform greatly in school, and they need to preserve and respect the family values regarding their personal life (dating, marriage, kids, and so on). Then we move on to Natasha Kingsley’s family, who came to America illegally so that her father could pursue his acting career. Right at the beginning of the book we are put face to face with the fact that Natasha’s family is about to get deported due to some mistake made by the father, which later is unveiled to be a D.U.I. accident. Besides these two families, we catch a slight glimpse to other families: the sad story of the waitress that did not attend her son’s wedding due to the fact that her son married a white girl, even though she would have accepted it, but her husband made her cut all the ties with him, the story of Jeremy Fitzgerald who cannot decide on the woman he loves the most – his wife or his secretary – and even the crushing story of Joe’s wife, who died of cancer, pushing him into depression.
Race – Another leitmotif in this book is race. Coming from a conservative family, Daniel knew from the start that his parent will disapprove of Natasha. On the other side, when Natasha brings Daniel in her neighbourhood, she notices the way people look at her when holding his hand. These two perspectives are also linked by the fact that Daniel’s parents are owning a store dedicate to haircare products for black people. Natasha’s choice for wearing her hair natural sparks conversations with her mother in the first place, and then with Daniel’s father, when she is recommended a couple of products for her to use to get her hair straight. The generation gap is clearly defined here by Nicola, as both kids are aware of the fact that their parents’ views are wrong, but also understanding the historical and social context of their backgrounds.
Independence – I do not know how many people will agree with me on this, but I think that the third leitmotif of this book is independence. When faced with the fact that she and her family are getting deported, Natasha takes the matter in her own hands, despite her mother’s advice to stop trying. She is doing everything she can to stop this deportation until the last minute. When faced with the idea of becoming something else than what he liked, Daniel doesn’t follow his parents wish to go to Yale and becomes an English major, and then a writer. Also, as in the case of family, there are small instances of people showing independence: Jeremy Fitzgerald declaring his true love to his secretary, Joe deciding that he should quit smoking or even Irene, the circular character, deciding to quit her job, to not kill herself, and to become a better version of herself.
In the end…
… you need to understand that this is a YA novel. There are going to be parts that you might find cheesy, parts that might annoy you, parts that, in your personal point of view, would never happen, but in the end this is a really good book, with amazing characters that can be viewed as role models.