The YA novel The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon takes place in New York City and tells the story of Natasha and Daniel, two teenagers at critical junctures in their lives.
Natasha learns her family is about to be deported back to Jamaica and contacts an immigration attorney for help. Daniel contemplates defying his immigrant Korean parents’ insistence that he attend Yale and be a doctor. Their trajectories bring them together through a series of coincidences, leading them to question themselves, their family backgrounds, and the nature and purpose of life.
As a practical person, Natasha wants to focus on the task at hand and not get lost in emotion and contemplation. When she receives the number of Attorney Fitzgerald, she quickly makes a decision to call him:
Observable fact: You should never take long shots. Better to study the odds and take the probable shot. However, if the long shot is your only shot, then you have to take it.
After making an appointment with the attorney, Natasha stands on the sidewalk, now lost in thought:
I make the quick wish for a not-too-freezing winter before remembering I probably won’t be around to see it. If snow falls in a city and no one is around to feel it, is it still cold?
Yes. The answer to that question is yes.
This key moment shows the beginning of Natasha’s personal growth. Her answer demonstrates her scientific nature but the question shows that under the stress of uncertainty, her defenses are breaking down. Despite her logic, she has an emotional attachment to her life in NYC.
When Natasha meets Daniel, she finds she has to acknowledge her feelings. While they have coffee and discuss time travel, she thinks to herself with reference to her ex-boyfriend Rob who cheated on her that she doesn’t have the capacity for love.
After they leave the coffee shop, Daniel takes off his suit jacket and asks Natasha to carry it in her backpack. She tries not to acknowledge that she’s attracted to him, although she wonders what he would look like in the usual American outfit, jeans and a t-shirt. Then a question pops into her mind:
Is it the same for Jamaican boys?
My mood turns somber at the thought. I don’t want to start over again. It was hard enough when we first moved to America.
Natasha’s anxiety about her future and now an attraction to Daniel cut through her defenses.
As their day progresses, Natasha responds to Daniel’s many questions, confronts prejudice, and finds the courage to ask questions of others. During a phone call with Rob, she is able to talk with him honestly:
“One more question. Do you believe in true love and all that stuff?”
“No. You know me better than that. You don’t believe in it either,” he reminds me.
Don’t I? “Okay. Thanks.”
These examples show how Natasha’s character develops through self-examination. She grows into a person who can feel genuine love, someone who can face difficult questions and is willing to take the long shot.