Book Review – The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun is also a Star is a wonderful tale of fate. It focuses around two teenagers who both have something bigger going on in their lives, yet somehow a crossing of paths makes their lives seem not so bad. It has a similar premise to the 2014 movie, Before We Go, featuring Chris Evans, in the sense that it’s focused around one single day.

Yet the thing that makes this book special, and especially memorable, are the chapters not focused around the teenage pair.

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(That is my cat in the background, she also appreciates a good book)

Obviously you have your main story, but Yoon did something especially clever by having certain chapters explain back stories of characters, meanings of words, and why some things happen. These interjections give you an completely rounded picture of the narrative, without feeling like the author is being intrusive or ruining the story. There’s an entire world in this book, you just have to dive in and see.

The characters are fully developed, although they’re both better versions of teenagers than I’ve ever witnessed. There’s a grown up air about both of them, maybe due to their situations, but it does make them seem only a tad unrealistic. They both firmly know who they are, yet I’m 21 and still aren’t completely sure of that. I suppose you could take it them as being easier to understand because they’re not representations of the average teenager, which makes it a smoother read for all ages. Despite this, I did like them both, as well as all the minor characters who featured in the book. I felt part of the story, and it made me realise that these situations do happen to people all the time.

It was an all together easy book to read – the words flowed carefully yet didn’t make you feel like you were reading a YA book. It’s a carefully thought out exhibition, guiding you, explaining things, informing you. I actually learnt things from this book, and I love it. Any way I can accidentally learn something is the best.

This is one of those books that you should probably read in your lifetime. It’s like literary fiction for a younger audience, because it’s special and one of a kind. Yoon has also written a book called Everything, Everything, which has recently been turned into a film! I would love to see a film version of The Sun is also a Star, but I think the interjecting chapters could be difficult to shoot. All together I gave this book five stars on Goodreads, which is quite an accolade from me, and I hope you take the time to give it a go!

Book Review – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

‘Waiting was a sin against both the time that was still to come, and against the moments one was currently disregarding.’

Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is a wonderfully strange novel. The characters are odd, as are the settings and the story, but man did I enjoy it. Give me a strange world and I’ll be happy. I have the Chris Riddell illustrated version which, as you can see, also makes for a beautiful visual journey.

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This is actually my first Gaiman novel, as I’ve never had the longing to read one before. Controversial I know, but I was young and foolish. I mean, I’m still young and foolish, but at least I’ve read some Neil Gaiman.

What I love about this story is its originality. It has the basic idea of a hero’s journey from rags to riches, at least in terms of quality of life. Gaiman takes a meagre life and turns it into a great one. Still, Richard Mayhew doesn’t become your typical hero. He’s just an ordinary bloke who happens to visit a strange place and do some kinda cool things. He’s still just as ordinary by the end of it, which instills a sense of reality into Gaiman’s work. Here we are in this crazy, ridiculous world of London Below, yet we can relate to the protagonist because he’s just like us. He makes us wonder what we would do if thrown into a similar situation. I certainly don’t know what I’d do if I met the Earl of Earl’s Court.

That’s another great thing. The puns. THE PUNS! The Black Friars, the angel Islington, and Old Bailey are fabulous characters with ingenious names. It does beg the question why no one has ever done this before though. I wonder what else you could do that with. Although, I just tried to come up with one but failed, so maybe it isn’t that easy.

Of course, the writing is wonderful. He manages to incorporate ingenious lines, such as the quote I mentioned earlier, yet still keeping it light and witty (he is basically goals). I also like the way it comes together. Most chapters are told from Richard’s perspective, but there are also many told from Door’s, or the infamous Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. It freshens up the pace, keeping it interesting as well as rounding out the story.

After reading Neverwhere, I think I will read some of his other works. Its strangeness has peaked my interest enough to explore further, yet I have a feeling that this won’t be my favourite of his books. Although, of course, it’s wonderful, there’s a lot going on. This is completely my opinion, but I get a bit woolly-headed if I have too much to focus on.

The real question is, which one do I read next?

La La Land, and Why It’s Exactly What We Need Right Now (No Spoilers)

La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, has obviously been hyped up a lot. It’s a musical film, which is a genre normally reserved for Disney or film versions of stage shows. We have certain notions associated with musicals that I think La La Land is aiming to banish.

Take a stage show. The actors have been trained in singing, acting, and dancing probably for their whole lives, and they have a certain, how do you say it, flare. I hesitate to say cheesy, because they’re not. They just slot perfectly into that West End box. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that, because I LOVE stage musicals. Jersey Boys is one of my favourites, the harmonies being impeccable, and Matilda gives me feelings of pure joy. Wicked is also incredible, but herein lies the problem. We’ve become so used to this over-exaggerated, dramatic high note, arms-in-all-directions version of a musical. So much so, that people are complaining about the singing quality in a film where the singing isn’t at the forefront, and completely missing the point. And that’s why I think La La Land is so important.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are highly accredited actors. Incredibly versatile, they’ve played many roles opposite each other, which gives them an unrivaled chemistry on screen. They aren’t the first actors who spring to mind when planning a musical, but I am so glad they were picked. This chemistry is the key to this film. It’s not about the singing or the dancing. It’s about the emotions that can only be expressed through music. If you listen to the soundtrack (which I have now done a few times), you’ll hear that the only noteworthy singer featured is John Legend. Of course, he’s a talented man, but that’s the point of his character. He fits the role of the performer who wants to take jazz to another level. Every other actor is an actor. Because they’re playing actors. And lovers. And employees. And people. This is a film about real people, who just happen to sometimes want to express their emotions through song and dance. And if you’re that person, sitting there, criticising Emma Stone’s voice because she’s not doing riffs and tricks, then you’re completely missing the point.

This is the kind of musical film we need. It’s not a hopelessly romantic story line, it’s not cheesy, and it gives a nod to the fifties, when musicals were regular features in cinemas. It’s a new age for cinema, and I hope many films follow in its footsteps. It’s the perfect film for people open to new ways of seeing things, and also just a nice thing to see with a friend. I went with my friend Elly, and she said in particular that the cinematography was beautiful, and we studied Film Studies for a year, so we would know. Obviously. My mum, a hater of all things over dramatic, said she was a big fan of the film apart from the very first scene; this is coincidentally the only musical-esque number in the film. I did enjoy the scene, but I do have to agree that it’s slightly out of place when you consider the rest. I also just love the fact that the music in this film is predominantly jazz, which makes for a great soundtrack even without the film.

It fulfills the needs of a musical film exactly, without being too much. I love it and so do probably millions of others. Basically, go and see this film. It’s sooo worth it. Plus someone will probably force you to see it anyway so may as well do it yourself!