THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR by Nicola Yoon is a sweet YA romance about love, immigration, science, fate, and the universe. It reminded me of classic indie movies like Before Sunrise, and I was inspired to compile another playlist.
Music has a presence in the book–female lead Natasha, a scientifically-minded undocumented immigrant from Jamaica, loves ’90s grunge rock and has a Nevermind phone case, while male lead Daniel, a hopelessly romantic Korean-American poet, serenades her with “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA in a norebang (Korean karaoke bar)–but the vibe that I got from this story was lighter, soulful (but of course, romantic) indie rock and pop.
Fuel America – St. Lenox
Both Daniel and Natasha come from immigrant families, and cultural identity and the American Dream are important themes that affect both characters. Like Daniel, Andrew Choi of St. Lenox is the son of Korean immigrants; his album Ten Hymns from My American Gothic is a moving magnum opus about the immigrant experience.
Entropy – Grimes
This super catchy track is about Claire Boucher’s experiences as an artist, but it fits Natasha’s interest in science and her shock that her future is not going to be what she envisioned.
Favorite Song – Sinkane
At the beginning of the book, Natasha is shell-shocked by her family’s impending deportation and has only her favorite songs for solace, but I honestly wasn’t thinking of that when I picked this song–I just loved the infectious joy. There’s an extremely pivotal moment in which Natasha loses herself while listening to her headphones.
Lost Dreamers – Mutual Benefit
This dreamy, sparkling, wistful track fits Daniel’s willingness to derail his Yale admissions interview and get lost with this girl that he’s just met on the off-off-off chance that she might be The One. Dreams are also another important theme in the story for many characters.
Vines – Hippo Campus
Daniel believes in destiny and meaning in everything; Natasha thinks people are irrational and assign meaning to things because they can’t deal with the fact that everything is random and meaningless. He sees meaning where she doesn’t, futures that she won’t.
Disillusion – Badly Drawn Boy
More pragmatic Natasha might find Daniel’s cheesy, sincere belief in romance naive, but she also can’t help but be charmed by him.
Some Might Say – Oasis
This song is interesting to me because I honestly can’t tell whether the narrator is the wide-eyed idealist who might say that there will be a brighter day, or the jaded cynic who finds those people foolish. So I imagine it could fit the clash and chemistry between both Daniel and Natasha’s perspectives.
I Second That Emotion – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
I love this song and the utterly earnest declaration of the narrator’s willingness to build something lasting with his more cautious love interest, if she’d be down. The narrator could easily be Daniel and the more skeptical object of his affection could be Natasha.
Pictured: Black-ish’s Yara Shahidi and Boys Over Flowers’ Kim Bum
An Ocean Apart – Julie Delpy
The basic format of the story–a guy and a girl from different backgrounds cross paths and share their different perspectives on love, art, and meaning over a single day–immediately made me think of Before Sunrise. This song by Julie Delpy, who plays Celine in that series, would have particular meaning for Natasha and Daniel, who will literally be separated by an ocean when she is deported back to Jamaica.
The Other Side of Paradise – Glass Animals
This song is about basketball (apparently it was inspired by the documentary Hoop Dreams) but also a demographic that is often overlooked: people who left their hometowns to chase their dreams, but didn’t make it. It fits Natasha’s father Samuel Kingsley, who comes to America to pursue a career on Broadway, only for his whole family to suffer when he is unable to accept that his dreams aren’t coming to fruition.
Trouble Sleeping – Corinne Bailey Rae
Natasha believes love is fleeting and a myth, but meeting Daniel makes her realize that even if she doesn’t believe in true love, she could maybe want to.
Lucky Ones – Lana Del Rey
Natasha scoffs at Daniel for immediately becoming convinced that a girl he just met is the love of his life, but what amazes him is that it took a lot of coincidences and small events lining up perfectly for them to meet. Maybe the universe was conspiring to throw them together, maybe they were meant to be.
Chemicals React – Aly & AJ
I was in elementary school when this song was playing on Disney Channel. Natasha tells Daniel that love is nothing more than chemicals in the brain, but when they kiss, even she can’t deny that chemicals reacting feels pretty incredible.
Everything Will Flow – Suede
Natasha and Daniel have radically different perspectives not just about love, but also the universe itself. She worries their meeting, even if it does manage to work out by some miracle, will ultimately represent only a trivial blip on their way to something else. He confides in her his belief that everything and everyone are interconnected.
Love Like a Sunset Part II – Phoenix
Though she feels something for Daniel that she never thought she would feel, Natasha can’t help but worry that their love will end as soon as it has begun. The wistful melody works with the end of the novel.
Across the Universe – The Beatles
The Sun is Also a Star is about a boy and a girl, but also everyone and everything. Interspersed throughout Natasha and Daniel’s love stories are short chapters about their families, minor characters at the periphery, and even concepts (the evolution of eyes, the chemistry of love, the politics of Korean-owned black hair care salons) that ultimately all must collide for two people to meet.