Ah, young love! So sudden, so unexpected, so bittersweet.
“The Sun is Also a Star” is a movie based on the 2016 best-selling young adult novel of the same name (Delacorte Press) by Nicola Yoon. In spite of its YA listing, the book found fans of all ages. What’s not timeless about romance? Romeo and Juliet were only teenagers, but their love is eternal.
The novel begins on a perfect fall day in New York when young quantum physics student, Natasha Kingsley, meets Korean student Daniel Bae on his way to an interview for Yale. Natasha is played by Yara Shahidi, known for her role as Zoey Johnson on the sitcom “Black-ish.” Charles Melton (Reggie Mantle in the television series “Riverdale”) portrays Daniel.
After the teens meet (in a classic meet-cute, he saves her from being hit by a car), sparks fly, although both are preoccupied with external concerns. Natasha is on her way to immigration services in a desperate last-minute attempt to stop her family’s deportation to Jamaica. Daniel has resolved to begin living up to his parent’s expectations and stop doubting himself.
Natasha is the practical one, with a NASA star map on the wall above her bed (a sofa bed, really, in the living room that every night becomes a bedroom she shares with her younger brother). She only wants to stay in New York and continue college.
Daniel is a secret poet who refuses to try for Harvard because that’s where his older brother Charles went, at least until he was suspended for two semesters. His parents’ hopes for Daniel’s brother dashed, they are now concentrating on Daniel to fulfill their dream by becoming a doctor.
The novel is narrated by alternating voices, even the security guard at Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the driver of the car that almost hit Natasha. Natasha’s chapters are filled with science notes (and explanations of these notes for the uninitiated). If she is the “left brain,” Daniel is the right, as his chapters are driven by emotion. In one poignant passage, he muses that his parents would not approve of him dating a black girl.
The young actors have much to recommend them. Shahidi won an NAACP Image Award for best supporting actress in a comedy (“Black-ish”) in 2014. For her activism in encouraging young people to vote, Michelle Obama wrote her a letter of recommendation to Harvard University. She also was chosen to interview Hilary Clinton for Teen Vogue in 2017. Bae also starred in “American Horror Story” and “Glee.” Independent filmmaker Rene Russo-Young, whose 2014 film, “Nobody Walks” won a special jury prize at Sundance, directs the movie.
Nicola Yoon, born in Jamaica, is also the author of the bestselling young adult debut novel, Everything, Everything, which became a 2017 movie. The Sun is Also a Star was a National Book Award finalist.
In an interview with Writer’s Digest, Yoon described her book in one sentence: “A poetic boy named Daniel tries to convince a scientific girl name Natasha to fall in love with him in twelve hours.”
Will love conquer all? Only the universe knows.
“The Sun is Also a Star” opens May 17.