The Sun is Also a Star: A Review

Hudson Hsieh

Sun is Also a Star

Analysis of a fictional philosophical novel

Something I noticed with popular young adult contemporary novels written within the last few years is that they follow the same five or six formulaic, linear archetypal storylines. There isn’t any incentive for authors to innovate and create new plot formulas because of how popular YA novels are, but as more and more books are written in this formula, I can’t help but wonder what one book brings over the next. 

I find myself continuously asking the same question of: “Why would I read that if I could just read any other books I’ve read before and get the same or better experience?” For me there is little reason beyond analyzing the books for the newspaper to actively seek out new materials. There is a great article on Odyssey by Oliva Knight which I will link, that goes into much more detail.

So when I read the “Sun is also a Star” by Nicola Yoon, I was blown away by her avant-garde format and approach to the YA genre. The book itself feels like a breath of fresh air, and I consider it the one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. 

It expands upon the ideas that most YA book explores, but in a short novel. The book tackles the issues of racism, classism, and the idea of moral corruption. In my opinion the most important point that was included purposefully for all teens that are reading this book is: “Finding your purpose in life”. 

The book is written in a format where it skips to various first person perspectives of the character that we meet as the story goes on. Some chapters are written from the omnicast third person perspective. In an interview styled essay at the end of the novel, Nicola Yoon reveals that she wrote in the OTPP to give the reader a “god eye perspective”. She uses this perspective to convey important exposition that may have felt out of place if it was in the “main story”.

 Another important aspect to point out is how, although the story follows a tight and self contained storyline, there are other small threads that give the reader the side characters perspective on the plot. These threads do not overcomplicate the story with too many plotlines, and keep it simple so the reader can follow the story.

This format compliments the story because it explores how various characters ended up in the position they are seen in the book. It challenges the reader to decide whether their past decision makes them a bad person. It dives deep into the theme of morality and how the side character’s past actions and experiences mold them into who they are in the present. 

I particularly enjoy the quick snippet of minor characters like Rob and Lester Barnes, and how the author made these characters feel important to the story. She really made it feel like each and every character had a reason to be in the story. With each snippet it tells a depressing story about the characters, and it teaches an important lesson to the reader. 

One good example is regarding the waitress at the Korean restaurant. Her story is about losing her son because he married a Caucasian women and since she disapproved of the marriage, she essentially “lost” her son as they don’t talk anymore.

The best aspect of this book in my opinion is how it was able to integrate two popular beliefs of philosophy throughout the story. It puts the two popular beliefs of free will and determinism against one another. Nicola Yoon’s writing ability was put on full display when she was able to perfectly blend these two contrasting beliefs to form a cohesive narrative. 

Throughout the book the readers will be faced with cultural thought experiments like, how does infidelity affect one’s ability to love, How does one break through common culture norms, and what is true love?

It is to be noted that this novel does not look at life through rose tinted glasses like so many other YA books do. You get the feeling early on that these characters don’t contain any qualities that makes them fit into the archetypal role of a Hero. 

I have to give the author praise for how she didn’t follow the same formula that so many romance books follow, by not giving Daniel and Natasha the traditional fairy tale ending. The book was still able to retain many elements that made romance, unique just without the “fairytale” ending. 

This book’s view of society is depressing and almost mocks many elements of the real world. It takes common stereotypes that we have of African Americans, and Asian American, and it tones it down so it’s believable. 

It doesn’t exaggerate the details, and this was mentioned in the interview, where Nicola Yoon also states that she wanted this book to be very accurate of how these races are depicted as. She even had people of Korean and African American race look at her drafts to make sure everything is accurate and she didn’t offend anyone. 

The dynamic way Nicola Yoon was able to portray New York City was another area where this novel excels in. You can tell when the book transitions from one idea to the next, by where that scene takes place. 

The more cultural and philosophical based discussion often takes place in cozy restaurants and cafes, while the more personal ones take place in secluded rooftops where the characters are able to take in the beautiful skyline of lower Manhattan. 

Also the author is constantly moving these characters around the cities, so we always feel like we are exploring new places. It’s so interesting to see the various different shops, subway stations and restaurants as we follow Natasha and Daniel. As we move around the city we get to see what values certain places hold to the main characters. Understanding what these places mean to the characters is integral to establish the character’s personality and who they are. 

In conclusion the Sun is also a Star, was able to introduce the reader to a more philosophical type of book where the characters debate cultural and social arguments that many coming of age readers may struggle with. 

The book also included elements of Romance and suspense, which compliments the story and adds a sense of realism that this book needed. Lastly it was able to tell a compelling narrative, with contemporary improvements like dynamic character development and interesting relationships between characters. That is why The Sun is also a Star is so good 

Please support Nicola Yoon by reading “Sun is also a Star” 

Thanks for reading and as always have a good day and more to come soon

Link for the article: I’m Tired Of Young Adult Fiction As A Young Adult