I wanted to like Nicola Yoon’s books. I really wanted to.
They’re everywhere. Since bursting into the YA scene with Everything, Everything in September 2015, her books have amassed an impressive 151,000 GoodReads ratings between them and her debut novel has just entered cinemas *stares suspiciously at the 18th August UK release date*
It’s easy to understand where all the hype is coming from. The books are wonderfully written, weaving factual knowledge with emotional understanding.
I read once that, on average, we replace the majority of our cells every seven years. Even more amazing: we change the upper layers of our skin every two weeks. If all the cells in our body did this, we’d be immortal. But some of our cells, like the ones in our brains, don’t renew. They age, and age us. In two weeks my skin will have no memory of Olly’s hand on mine, but my brain will remember. We can have immortality or the memory of touch. But we can’t have both.
– Everything, Everything
Sometimes your world shakes so hard, it’s difficult to imagine that everyone else isn’t feeling it too
– The Sun is Also a Star
The covers are beautiful (a completely relevant method of assessment), the concepts are refreshingly new, there are some extremely quotable quotes.
There is just one problem: the characters.
For some reason, I didn’t connect with Maddy and Olly from Everything, Everything. I thought they were written a little flatly. After reading some reviews that pointed out the ableist nature of the ending’s plot twist, I determined that particular book just wasn’t for me. But I was still more than excited to read Yoon’s second book.
The Sun is Also a Star, however, had my eyes rolling into the back of my head.
It follows Natasha, fighting to stop her family’s deportation to Jamaica, over the day she spends with Daniel, a reluctant Yale applicant pushed into a career of his parents’ choosing.
I like Natasha. She’s bright and determined. She’s into Maths and Science and she’s a rare character who actually has the lines to back up this assertion of character.
And then enters Daniel, the source of all my frustration. He carries a notebook at all times in case of sudden poetic inspiration. He also is thinking about marriage and babies a few hours after meeting Natasha. His lines include:
As our eyes meet, I get a kind of deja vu, but instead of feeling like I’m repeating something in the past, it feels like I’m experiencing something that will happen in my future. I see us in old age. I can’t see our faces; I don’t know where or even when we are. But I have a strange and happy feeling that I can’t quite describe. It’s like knowing all the words to a song but still finding them beautiful and surprising.
Approximately three minutes ago, they met each other.
I punctuate my words with nose kisses.
This exchange takes place roughly ten minutes after their very first kiss.
The universe stops and waits for us.
She opens her palm and she’s going to take my hand. She’s supposed to take my hand. We’re meant to walk through this world together. I see it in her eyes. We are meant to be.
Excuse me while I vomit.
Luckily Natasha is around to throw some sensibility into the discussion otherwise I don’t think I could have finished.
Her skepticism turns into suspicion. ‘What is your addled poet brain getting at?’
‘You’re gonna hate me.’
‘Maybe,’ she agrees.
‘Dark matter is love. It’s the attracting force.’
‘Oh God Jesus no. Yuck. Bleck. You’re the worst.’
Literally me throughout the entire book.
But soon even love-cynical Natasha jumps on the bandwagon of Daniel’s love-struck ways and she’s spurting out things like:
I want this one moment to last forever, but I don’t want to miss all the other moments to come. I want our entire future together, but I want it here and now.
And it’s the sheer frequency of moments like these that did it for me. I just couldn’t appreciate the book’s themes and ideas and wonderful writing when every few paragraphs I wanted to climb inside the pages and shout ‘You met each other three hours ago!’ into the characters’ ears.
Maybe I’m just a heartless cynic who aggressively disbelieves in love at first sight. Maybe I just became disproportionately annoyed with one aspect of this book. Either way, this one really just wasn’t for me.
Will I read Nicola Yoon’s future writing whenever her next book graces our shelves? Given my opinion on Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star, I think it’s unlikely I’ll give the next one a go.
But then, I’m a sucker for pretty covers, so I’ll probably buy and read it anyway, let’s be real now.