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Book Review

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and [parenting magazine] (https://store.focusonthefamily.com/singleitem/checkout/donation/item/goaa-thriving "magazine").

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

On a fall day in New York City, 17-year-old Natasha Kingsley and her family prepare to leave the country. Because of her father’s DUI, they only have 12 hours left in the United States before being deported to Jamaica.

Natasha’s father, an actor, drank with the cast and crew after a performance and crashed into a police car on the way home. In a drunken confession, he told the officer that he and his family were in the United States illegally. Natasha, who immigrated when she was 8 years old, is afraid to be sent back to a country she does not remember.

At the same time, 17-year-old Daniel Jae Ho Bae leaves his family’s home to get his hair cut for an interview with a Yale college alumnus. Daniel is being pressured by his Korean-native parents to get accepted into Yale, especially now that that Daniel’s brother, Charlie, has been forced home from Harvard after having two semesters on probation. Despite his parents’ expectations, Daniel does not want to go the interview, go to Yale or become a doctor. He decides that until his interview later that day, he will do whatever the world tells him to.

In a last ditch effort to stop the deportation, Natasha goes to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) but is delayed by Irene, a lonely security guard, who has decided to commit suicide after she’s done with work. Desperate for human connection, Irene meticulously processes Natasha’s personal belongings through security, pausing to touch and examine everything. Because Irene works so slowly, Natasha misses her appointment, but ends up meeting with another USCIS agent who gives her the phone number for immigration lawyer Jeremy Fitzgerald.

While Daniel is on the way to his haircut, the subway conductor stops the train and shares his testimony of salvation with passengers. He urges them to find God before they reach their final destinations. Daniel, who believes in fate, destiny and signs, decides he will look for signs from God. That’s when he sees Natasha. She is wearing a leather jacket with the words Deus ex machine (God from the machine) printed on the back. He spots her just before she goes into a record store called Second Coming.

Daniel takes this as a sign and goes into the store to talk to her. Natasha is preoccupied with her family’s situation and doesn’t want to get to know Daniel, but he follows her out of the store and pulls her from a crosswalk before a car hits her.

Natasha is shaken by the near accident and agrees to have coffee with Daniel. As they talk, they realize they are attracted to one another, but they are very different. Natasha relies on science and logic, while Daniel is a poet and a creative and passionate individual.

Daniel sees their meeting as being fated, and Natasha warns him not to fall in love with her, as she knows she may be leaving the country at the end of the day. Daniel tells her that falling in love can be scientific, as researchers have proven that two people can ask each other a series of personal questions followed by staring into each other’s eyes and fall in love.

Natasha agrees to the experiment. As the day unfolds, the two spend every moment possible together and get to know each other on a personal level. Daniel runs an errand at his family’s store. Although he has reservations about taking Natasha inside, he braves his father’s and brother’s reaction to seeing him with a Jamaican girl. His fears are justified as his brother makes racist and sexist comments, and his father is racially insensitive.

Daniel is deeply embarrassed. After they leave, he apologizes to Natasha. Despite the awkward and embarrassing situation, Natasha is happy that Daniel chose to be seen with her, even though it was difficult.

Daniel takes her out to lunch at a Korean restaurant and then to a norebang, a karaoke place with private rooms. They sing for each other and then kiss passionately. Natasha is surprised by the intense attraction between them, and it makes her nervous. The kiss only confirms Daniel’s belief that they are meant to be together.

They leave the norebang, and when Daniel mentions that they are fated, Natasha tells him that she will be deported. Daniel is angry at her for not telling him earlier, before he fell in love with her. They argue and go their separate ways. Daniel goes back to the family’s store and confronts his brother. The two get into a fight. Daniel’s father tells him that he should forget Natasha as she and Daniel can never be. Daniel leaves to find Natasha, deciding that he wants to be with her even if today is all they have.

Natasha meets with Jeremy Fitzgerald, who tells her that he is the best immigration attorney and will meet with a judge to get their deportation order overturned so they won’t have to leave that night. Natasha has hope for her situation and regrets how she and Daniel parted.

She goes back to his family’s store and convinces Charlie to give her Daniel’s phone number. She calls Daniel, and they meet at the building that Fitzgerald works, which happens to be the same building where Daniel’s interview is scheduled.

They learn more about one another and begin to influence each other’s decisions. Daniel realizes that he doesn’t have to follow his parents’ path; he can choose his own. Natasha begins to consider finding passion in her life the way Daniel does in his. Although Daniel considers their meeting an act of God, Natasha does not believe in God — though she wants to believe in things like love. They spend the time before Daniel’s interview talking, kissing and realizing they have fallen in love.

Natasha, finally believing in things that are meant to be, calls USCIS and leaves a message of thanks for Irene. She believes the morning’s delay started a series of events that led her to meeting Daniel and the meeting with Attorney Fitzgerald.

Daniel’s interview turns out to be with Jeremy Fitzgerald, who is ultimately unable to help Natasha. At the end of the day, Natasha and her family must get on a plane to return to Jamaica. Both Daniel and Natasha are heartbroken and promise to stay in touch, but time and distance cause them to lose touch.

Ten years later, Irene is now a flight attendant. She received Natasha’s message of thanks and decided not commit suicide, but to seek help for her depression instead. Irene sees Natasha on a flight, recognizes her and thanks Natasha for leaving the message all those years before. Their interaction catches the attention of Daniel, who happens to be sitting a few seats away. Natasha and Daniel recognize one another instantly.

Christian Beliefs

A train conductor becomes a Christian. He believes you must be born again, believe wholly in the Bible and that Christ died so humans may be forgiven. Once you accept this, you must become an activist of faith, sharing and spreading the Gospel. As such, he stops the train and shares his testimony over the train’s loudspeaker, urging others to go and find God.

Other Belief Systems

Natasha does not believe in God anymore. Growing up and seeing her parents’ flaws caused her to lose her religion. She doesn’t believe in her father either. She is confused as to why people feel the need to believe in God and not science.

Daniel believes in a type of god, but he thinks god is the connection between people that we don’t understand and don’t want to let go of. He thinks god is the connection of the very best parts of people. Natasha likes Daniel’s idea of god as she does not believe in the fire-and-brimstone version of god. Daniel also believes that at birth, god or little aliens or whoever, should send people into the world with do-over passes.

Authority Roles

Natasha believed she had a loving relationship with her father until she overheard him telling her mother that having a family is his biggest regret. Afterward, she feels that all her pleasant memories of him have been tainted. When she finally confronts her father, he is embarrassed that she overheard his cruel words and tells her he did not mean them.

Natasha had a good relationship with her mother, but as Natasha grew older, it has become strained. They seem to have less in common. Similarly, with her interest in math and science, Natasha’s father feels as if his daughter has outgrown them. Natasha’s parents have a strained relationship resulting from her father’s unrealized dreams of becoming a famous actor.

Charlie has been required to withdraw from Harvard for two semesters, which embarrasses his parents. Charlie is a cruel older brother to Daniel. Daniel loves his father, despite not having a great relationship with him. Daniel’s father tells him that if he does not choose Yale and become a doctor, they will not pay for his tuition. Daniel knows that his parents’ childhood poverty in Korea shapes their desires for their sons’ success. Daniel feels that his father can’t see past his own history to let his sons have theirs.

Profanity/Violence

Profanity includes the f-word, WTF, s---, d--k, h---, pr--k, godd--n, a--hole, b--tard and d--n. The Lord’s name is often taken in vain. Daniel confronts Charlie, and they have a fistfight, leaving both boys with black eyes and Daniel with a busted lip.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Natasha believes that the three stages of love — lust, attraction and attachment — are orchestrated by neurotransmitters in the brain. Lust is ruled by testosterone and estrogen. Oxytocin is released during orgasm and vasopressin is released post-coitally.

Natasha sees her ex-boyfriend, Rob, and the girl he cheated on her with kissing passionately in a record store. Hours later, she calls him and asks why he cheated. Rob simply wanted to date both girls, and he apologizes for hurting her.

When Daniel first meets Natasha, he is physically attracted to her and stares at her lips and legs. Natasha is also attracted to Daniel and discreetly looks at his chest and butt. When they kiss for the first time in the norebang, both are very surprised by the intensity of the attraction. Daniel knows he cannot have sex with Natasha in the norebang, but he wants to. Natasha squeezes Daniels butt, and he jokes with her that he’s not a melon. They kiss several times during the day.

Jeremy Fitzgerald failed to get the Kingsleys’ deportation order reversed because instead of meeting with the judge, he took his paralegal, Hannah, to a hotel and began having an affair with her. Fitzgerald tells Daniel that he met Hannah too late. He later leaves his wife and two small children for Hannah, eventually marrying her. His son from his first marriage never marries, has children or forgives his father for the betrayal. His daughter marries her first girlfriend but sabotages the relationship and marries twice more, but no one ever loves her as much as her first wife did.

Daniel’s father tells Natasha that she should chemically relax her hair as her afro is too big. Natasha tells him that she likes it big, at which Charlie replies (in a crude inference to Daniel’s penis size) that if she likes it big, she won’t like Daniel. Later, when Daniel mentions Natasha, Charlie says that he would have sex with her.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Shoplifting: Rob and his girlfriend attempt to shoplift from a record store.

Alcohol: A drunk driver almost hits Natasha as she tries to cross a street. The same man hits Jeremy Fitzgerald a short time later. Natasha’s father drives drunk and gets a DUI.

If you are looking for more information about how science and a biblical worldview work together, consider these TrueU resources: • Does God Exist? • [Is the Bible Reliable](https://store.focusonthefamily.com/focus-featured/true-u/is-the-bible-reliable-building-the-historical-case “Is the Bible Reliable?”] • [Who Is Jesus?](https://store.focusonthefamily.com/focus-featured/true-u/who-is-jesus-building-a-comprehensive-case “Who Is Jesus?”]

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

15 and up

Genre

Romance

Author

Nicola Yoon

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House

Released

On Video

Year Published

2016

Awards

2016 National Book Award Finalist, Young People’s Literature

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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