Purpose: Classic literary authors (Shakespeare, Miller, Hurston, Morrison, Faulkner, Austen, Hemingway, Wright, and Brontë, just to name a few) are studied in classrooms every day across the country. Their texts have been used for years, and for good reason: the writing is exemplary, the characters are universal yet complex, and the themes touch on all aspects of humanity. We know, however, that in addition to these canonical texts, there are many contemporary books that address some of the same themes and conflicts and are written for young adult and middle-school audiences. We believe these text pairings—whether for small reading groups in the classroom or as independent reading—will enhance the reader’s experience by drawing parallels with the themes and archetypes of the classics.
To help spread the word about these text pairings, we have created a Teach-Alike blog that will be posted on our website every other month. If you have any creative suggestions, requests for specific texts, or reviews of the pairs read together, we would love to hear from you! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy, and keep reading!
February Teach-Alike: The Sun Is Also a Star with William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (thought to be written around 1595) is a romantic tragedy about the “star-crossed lovers” Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, children of feuding families. Although the entirety of the play occurs in just five days, Romeo and Juliet meet, fall in love, marry in secret, and commit suicide in the midst of a plan gone awry. While many of my teenage students openly laughed when we reviewed the plot and timeline of Romeo and Juliet—believing that they would never, ever fall in love that quickly and certainly never desert their family after just meeting someone—discussing the effects of a person’s choices, lust, and familial responsibilities always made for a fascinating conversation.
Nicola Yoon’s The Sun Is Also a Star is an incredible contemporary novel to read along with Romeo and Juliet. The main characters—Natasha, steadfast in her belief in science and facts, and Daniel, a good, loyal son to his watchful Korean parents—run into each other in the crowded New York City streets and fall in love in just one day. Like Romeo and Juliet, questions about fate and free will, loyalty to family, and love (what is real love?) emerge throughout the pages. Blending scientific facts with the poetry of desire, The Sun Is Also a Star celebrates the human propensity for passion and the defiance of “consequence[s] . . . hanging in the stars.”
The Sun Is Also a Star is inspired by Big History (to learn about one thing, you have to learn about everything). To understand the characters and their love story, we must know everything around them and everything that came before their meeting that has affected who they are.
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?
Praise for The Sun Is Also a Star
A Michael L. Printz Honor Book
A 2016 National Book Award Finalist
★ “Lyrical and sweeping, full of hope, heartbreak, fate.” —Booklist, starred review
★ “[A] profound exploration of life and love.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ “Moving and suspenseful.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ “A love story that is smart without being cynical, heartwarming without being cloying, and schmaltzy in all the best ways.” —The Bulletin, starred review
★ “Fresh and compelling.” —The Horn Book, starred
★ “An exhilarating, hopeful novel.” —Shelf Awareness, starred