The Sun is Also a Star ~ Nicola Yoon

“We’re undocumented immigrants, and we’re being deported tonight. Today is my last chance to try to convince someone – or fate – to help me find a way to stay in America. To be clear: I don’t believe in fate. But I’m desperate.” ~ Natasha

“There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. […] I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m experiencing right now. The only slight (possibly insurmountable) problem is that I’m pretty sure that Natasha is not.” ~ Daniel

Natasha is an undocumented immigrant whose family moved to New York from Jamaica when she was eight. Her life is here, in the US, but today is her last day before she gets deported. Instead of packing or saying goodbye to the only place she calls home, Natasha departs on an adventure to try and stop her family’s deportation.

Daniel is the second son of Korean immigrants, their second chance at having a son graduate from “second-best school,” Yale. Today is his Yale interview; the first step towards becoming a doctor, a career Daniel has zero interest in. On his way uptown, Daniel notices a cute, African-American girl dancing her way down the street. He’s hooked.

Once they meet, Daniel and Natasha spend the day together exploring New York City, falling in love, and most importantly, trying to stop Natasha’s deportation. Along the way, they learn about each other’s families, their dreams, and themselves. In her novel, Yoon presents two contrasting yet honest portrayals of children of immigrants in the United States and their search to find out who they are and who they want to become.

The novel is made all the more interesting because each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character, focusing mainly on Natasha and Daniel, while also providing the perspectives of other minor characters – or the universe – on the events of the day. Because of this, Yoon is able to show how a variety of characters in the same city – even family – can experience the world so differently. Somehow, these characters’ stories are all interconnected though, implying that fate might actually exist, no matter how little Natasha believes in it.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Overall Rating: 90%

Relatable Characters?

Meh.

Cute?

Yes!

Funny?

Sometimes!

Moving?

Could be?

Sad?

A little

Lemon trees from one’s dream materialize overnight in one’s room. Cuckoo clocks house talking cuckoo birds that fall asleep and forget the time. Croquet is played with flamingos as mallets and hedgehogs as balls. The world of Marissa Meyer’s Heartless is full of fantastic, impossible things. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Heartless tells the backstory of the Queen of Hearts, featuring Meyer’s take on why the character becomes the “blind and aimless Fury” that Carroll portrays (Meyer 4).

rehost2016913a5c7dcc9-6afd-4a16-b6eb-3b98632b12c7Heartless follows Catherine Pinkerton whose passion for baking sustains her dream of opening a bakery with her best friend and maid Mary Ann. In the Kingdom of Hearts, however, women have no place in the world of business because societal rules and norms are modeled after Victorian England’s, and baking is not considered a suitable job for Cath, the daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove. Cath nonetheless endeavors to realize her dream, all-the-while grappling with her parent’s wishes for her to marry the King of Hearts and become queen.

Exploring the impact societal norms and parental expectations can have on one’s life, Heartless also illustrates issues of privilege and class divide and raises questions about what actions are just, what love justifies, and if some events are not certain individuals’ faults but fate’s.

Heartless’ rich world-building and colorful cast of characters make for a very immersive read that both those familiar and unfamiliar with Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will enjoy. In addition to reimagining staples like the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter, Meyer incorporates elements of other works like Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” into Heartless and introduces original characters like the charming, funny, considerably swoon-worthy new court joker of Hearts, Jest.

However, not everyone may appreciate the substantial role romance plays in the novel, and I personally found it hard to like Cath. I didn’t always agree with how she handled situations, and her behavior and inner monologue, while authentic given the societal context, was off-putting at times—reflecting classist notions.

Nevertheless, my entrancement with the novel’s world and desire to learn what causes Cath’s transformation from aspiring bakery owner to heartless queen compensated for the few issues I had with Cath’s character and certain plot points in the story. Overall, I found Heartless to be a worthwhile read.

By Celina Sun

Meyer, Marissa. Heartless. EPUB ed., Pan Macmillan, 2016.

 

 

The Weight of Feathers

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The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore, is a modern homage to Romeo and Juliet.  It is the love story of two teenagers from rival families of traveling performers.  One family is French-speaking Romani, or gypsies, who perform a traveling show of fairies, wearing large wingspans of feathers and hopping amongst the evening treetops.  The other family is Spanish speaking and performs a traveling mermaid show, with sequined tails and choreographed movements appearing and disappearing within a local lake.  Both families are steeped in superstitions and convinced that their enemies are working black magic against them.  To touch a member of the rival family is forbidden.  Past down from generation to generation are stories of what evils will fall you if you touch their skin.  Deep family secrets spur on this hatred amongst the rivals.  

The story focuses on one summer the two traveling troops find themselves once again competing for audiences in a small town in Florida, living and performing around the town lake and forest.  Here, both families confront memories of a tragic event that happened on this same site twenty years earlier; both blame the other for their misfortunes stemming from this event.  A tragic cosmic event once again descends upon the lake and brings our two young people together.  Lace and Cluck are thrown together that night, saving each other and branding each other, becoming irreversibly entwined.  As their love takes hold, both uncover the secrets their families have kept and the source for the hatred held so sacred to both families for so long.  

McLemore weaves both French and Spanish throughout this novel, adding to the rich language and sense of cultural histories.  The superstitions of black magic that pervade each family’s identity also becomes real, as we learn that the x family all grow feathers from the backs of their heads, and the x family are all marked with iridescent scales.  Thus they truly are their acts- birds and mermaids.  

Both young people are outcasts from their families.  Cluck is tormented by his family because his feathers have marks of red; they call him the “little devil”.  Cluck and Lacy’s differences unravel as they both learn their truth and fall in love.  “Cluck knew what Lace meant, that they weren’t so different, that the space between them was make only of names and colors.  But the bitterness went into Cluck like the slip of a paring knife.  He would have wanted the choice not to be a red-streaked thing among all his family’s perfect black.  Now her father took aim at the black birds in the woods, shooting his own name” (216).  

This story is ultimately about self acceptance, discovering identity, and having the strength to break away from the narratives of family and set out on one’s own course.  Despite the hate they have been taught about each other their whole lives, both Lace and Cluck find refuge in each other and are able to look past appearances and preconceptions to find love.  Readers who love romance, magic and stories of overcoming discriminating family legacies will love this novel.  

by: Courtney Stephens

McLemore, Anna-Marie.  The Weight of Feathers.  New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 2015.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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Overall Rating: 95%

Relatable? YES.
Cute? Yes!
Funny? Definitely has its moments.
Moving? I cried multiple times.
Sad? A little.

“There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will. I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m experiencing right now” (Yoon 79).

Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star is fairly conscious of the fact that it follows an “instalove”-esque narrative, but the novel’s self-awareness makes the story a much more unique read. Exploring topics like love, destiny, immigration, and family, the novel follows protagonists Daniel and Natasha as their paths cross on an especially fateful day.

The child of Korean immigrants, Daniel is on his way to a college admission interview with a Yale alumnus when he meets Natasha, an undocumented immigrant who’s headed to meet a lawyer who may be able to stop her deportation to Jamaica. The two find themselves in each other’s company in the interim before their respective appointments, and upon discovering that Natasha places more faith in facts and science than in love or fate, Daniel sets out to prove to her that he can get her to fall in love with him scientifically in what time they have together.

Because the protagonists are aware that they’re essentially testing the idea of “instalove,” the novel refreshingly explores whether or not it’s actually possible for two people to fall in love so fast without becoming too unrealistic. The novel challenges readers to consider the difference between fate and coincidence as well as the possibility that some loves may indeed be “inevitable.”

Both Natasha and Daniel are extremely charming, well-written characters with quirks that make their respective POV (point-of-view) chapters really distinctive and enjoyable to read.

More literary-minded, Daniel often reflects on his life by creating headlines— “Area Boy Attempts to Use Science to Get the Girl” (Yoon 84), begins one of his chapters, while Natasha’s chapters often include “observable facts” indicative of her own more practical personality.

Making the story even more unique are the brief histories of minor characters and explanations of concepts like “half-life” and “multiverse” that are interspersed throughout the novel. These seeming digressions really enriched the narrative and helped illustrate, among other things, the point that even seemingly minor characters have their own stories that once revealed make them just as real as the protagonists.

Although The Sun Is Also a Star explores concepts of love and fate, the novel doesn’t shy away from discussing heavier topics like internalized racism—including much commentary on issues surrounding immigration and deportation. Particularly memorable was Natasha’s observation that “If people who were actually born here had to prove they were worthy enough to live in America, this would be a much less populated country” (Yoon 110).

Furthermore, while I cannot speak for others, as the child of immigrants, I found that the novel’s portrayal of immigrants’ experiences and attitudes was extremely authentic and relatable. Many of the sentiments expressed really rang true to me, reflecting opinions that I’ve encountered in real life. It’s clear that the author did a lot of research so that she could accurately depict such a realistic portrayal.

I highly recommend Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star. Because the novel does explore notions of love and fate, those who cannot suspend their disbelief about such ideas may find the story more difficult to enjoy, but I think the story’s balanced consideration of light and heavy topics, charming characters, and unique narrative structure will appeal to everyone.

By: Celina Sun

Yoon, Nicola. The Sun Is Also a Star. EPUB ed., Random House Children’s Books, 2016.