I’m honestly not sure where to start with The All-Night Sun. I think I know what Zinna was trying to do, but I’m not sure it accomplished it for me. Or maybe Zinna just watched Midsommar and was like, let me do something similar, but different. Gotta capitalize on the trends!
Here’s what I think Zinna was trying to do. Tell a story of loss and human heartache through our main character, Lauren. I imagine she wanted it to be beautiful and relatable and touching. I’m not sure that’s what it was. At least, not for me.
Lauren is no stranger to tragedy, she lost her parents while she was young and had to sell her childhood home to pay for college. She picked up some unhealthy coping habits, mostly in her relationships with men, and can’t seem to move on. She’s almost pathetically thankful for her job as a part time teacher at a small college.
She throws herself into her work and loves her students. Teaching gives her purpose in a way that her personal life is absolutely not. She mostly teaching international students, and one student in particular changes her life forever. Siri.
Lauren and Siri grow closer and closer, and eventually Lauren accepts Siri’s offer to spend a portion of the summer back home in Sweden with her. They plan to attend Midsommar, a festival celebrating the longest day of the summer. The sun does in fact stay out almost all night.
But something goes horribly wrong, and we watch Lauren unravel once she returns home.
This is, obviously, a very abbreviated version. Lauren doesn’t get along with any of the professors, no matter how hard she tried. She does have a thing for Siri’s brother even though Siri forbade it. (Not touching that one for now.) Lauren meets Siri’s childhood friends and stays in her childhood home. Siri also lost her parents, although under semi unusual circumstances.
But I don’t think you need all the details to appreciate what I’m going to express.
The book felt weird. And for me, it felt flat.
It isn’t about the weird, very unprofessional if harmless relationship between Lauren and Siri. Zinna makes a point several times to talk about how the school wouldn’t be happy if they knew how close the two where although nothing sexual develops. Although as the adult, Lauren absolutely should have created clear boundries.
There is no perfect road map for grief. Everyone deals with things in their own way and that is fine. I support people moving at their own pace as long as it’s healthy. Unfortunately Lauren was in a rut in every area of her life and seems to only be digging herself in further. But it wasn’t that, it was that I don’t believe anyone can be so out of touch.
No, it’s about Lauren herself. I didn’t like her, which fine, I have strong opinions. But I also didn’t believe her.
She can’t find a healthy way to cope? It doesn’t even seem like she’s trying. She can’t make a single friend? Can’t have one good boyfriend? Put boundaries up with her students? Can’t tell the truth, like ever? Not to mention she does (SPOILER) hook up with Siri’s brother even though she basically hates him. She just can’t resist?
Siri had her own problems as a character. She seemed very two dimensional, yes even after being in Sweden reveals her *true self.* It seemed like she was based on the haughty school girl stereotype, the girl who manipulates people to get what she wants. Are we friends? Is she mad at me? I can’t stand when she’s mad at me. Always has to have the attention on her. So when we find out she’s less than an angel, I was unsurprised. And unimpressed.
Despite all that, my biggest issues still lay with Lauren.
She shouldn’t have allowed her one and only friend to be a student almost 10 years younger than her. She shouldn’t have let said student put her in such compromising positions. Lauren is an adult.
At one point, they’re at odds and Lauren is like why won’t Siri talk to me. Ok, I guess I’ll just stay quiet while we walk back to camp. No ma’am. You make her talk to you about something so important. And if it’s that important, maybe don’t crave the approval of a student so strongly.
My last and largest complaint, covers roughly the last fourth of the novel. Something bad happens. Lauren returns to America. The events of that night unfold so slowly, and so dully, that I was tempted to skip ahead. But I didn’t. And once everything is finally out, we discover that Lauren was able to completely ignore reality. Just absolutely chunk it out the window. And then continue to deny it even as it is incredibly obvious and everyone is trying to tell her the truth.
She even ignores it when it starts costing her the one thing in her life that she’s happy about- her job!
Nope, not even that can shake her. When she eventual joins the rest of the world in accepting what has happened, she’s unchanged. But then at the last second we’re supposed to believe she has changed. Along with several other main characters. Which, based on everything we know about Lauren from the rest of the book, just didn’t seem likely.
Also the language was so concise and short, it didn’t paint a beautiful picture of Sweden for me. Zinna kept telling me it was beautiful, but we only got sparse descriptions so I didn’t envision it as such.
Ok, that was a lot. Obviously I have strong feelings. But you know what, I’d rather have strong feelings when it came to literature. If I felt lukewarm all the time about art, what a waste that would be. But, that also means I might be wrong. Have you read The All-Night Sun? What did you think?
If I was going to recommend a beautiful and heartbreaking and believable story about loss, I’d recommend Tin Man. Just saying.