Remember that time I said I was a book snob?
Well, I mostly meant about genres. And specifically about literally genres directed toward younger readers. Ok, I meant young adult (YA) fiction.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t be.
There’s lots of great YA fiction out there, every genre has it’s good and bad examples, ect ect.
In fact my bff adores young adult fiction and I adore her. Enter Yoon’s The Sun Is Also A Star.
Yoon’s second novel is about one day in New York where two teens, Natasha and Daniel, meet and fall in love. They are opposites in many respects; she’s from Jamaica and he’s Korean American, she wants to be a data annalist and he wants to be a poet, and this is Natasha’s last day in America. She and her family are being deported that night.
What follows is a story about what brought them, and everyone around them, to this point in their lives, and asks whether or not you can fall in love in one day.
There are also lots of scientific facts, questioning of fate and plenty of pop culture references. It’s a sweet teen angst romance but it isn’t too fluffy.
Technically it was enjoyable, the characters were believable and the dialogue was good. (Seriously? You read books all day and the best adjective you could come up with is good?) But it was the text itself that surprised me; there were small paragraphs about peripheral characters that added background and details. There were also mini history lessons and other seemingly random asides that were enjoyable and added to the story. And all of them seemed to contribute to the story’s questions about fate and the effects one action can have on everyone else.
As someone who loves when format supports abstracts demonstrated in the text, I thought that was clever.
Although this was a book written about millennials for millennials so maybe it was also commentary about the way young people consume information? Was it formatted by Yoon that way to reflect media? These are the questions that haunt me….
Any way. I would say the book was good and you should totally read it, but at the end I still wanted more. I thought using the differences their personalities to help emphasize the cultural differences, and to speak about the ‘new American’ experience was very smart. But we spent so much time on those ideas and never really said anything bold. We saw the differences but there wasn’t a strong statement attached to it.
SpOiLeR AlErT* Another example, Daniel makes a deprecating comment about having a movie moment where he goes to the airport and stops Tasha from getting on the plane. He doesn’t and she leaves but years later they’re reunited on an airplane. They see each other and the end. So is fate a thing? Is it not? Is not knowing the point? If so why wasn’t this more clear? Why do I always have so many questions??
My bff said that YA novels deserve more respect, that they deal with real life issues like any other genre. And I believe that’s true, I’ve read Thirteen Reasons Why, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the like.
My problem is that these characters handle the issues like teens.
But Allison, they are teens. That’s the whole point.
And thus, we are at an impasse. You’re right, that is how they should handle it. And most of the time they are profound and deep teens. But they’re still teens. And now that I’m out of my angst-y, high school, teen drama phase I don’t really want to spend a lot of time back in that world.
Fortunately, this book helped to change my mind a bit. It didn’t change my life or anything, but it was a quality piece of fiction. And it’s worth a little angst to read good literature; moving forward I’ll try to be more open.