Because of the Sun
Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez
Publication: January 3rd, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: e-ARC, 272 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health, Realistic Fiction
Read: January 2017
I received an e-ARC of this book from Delacorte Press and Random House Children’s via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
From the backyards of suburban Florida to the parched desert of New Mexico, Because of the Sun explores the complexity of family, the saving grace of friendship, and the healing that can begin when the truth is brought to light.
Dani Falls learned to tolerate her existence in suburban Florida with her brash and seemingly unloving mother by embracing the philosophy Why care? It will only hurt. So when her mother is killed in a sudden and violent manner, Dani goes into an even deeper protection mode, total numbness. It’s the only way she can go on.
But when Dani chooses The Stranger by Albert Camus as summer reading for school, it feels like fate. The main character’s alienation after his mother’s death mirrors her own.
Dani’s life is thrown into further turmoil when she is sent to New Mexico to live with an aunt she never knew she had. The awkwardness between them is palpable. To escape, Dani takes long walks in the merciless heat. One day, she meets Paolo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develop between Dani and Paolo, and Dani begins to heal. And as she and her aunt begin to connect, Dani learns about her mother’s past. Forgiving isn’t easy, but maybe it’s the only way to move forward.
Plot – 3 out of 5 stars
I don’t really know how to explain the plot of this book because it’s not really a common one. It was really easy to get pulled into and was really easy to read which means I flew through it. It’s divided into three parts with no chapters which was a little hard for me to get used to but made so much sense when I look back. This book deals with loss, grief, violence, abuse, honestly, pain, overwhelming emotions and acceptance. It’s a little strange but very powerful.
Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
The writing style is very particular and unique. It’s engaging, powerful and intense. The author uses a lot of descriptions and details to paint a very emotional and heart breaking picture. Some of the scenes were kind of confusing and it took me awhile to suspend my belief and immerse myself in the main character’s perspective. But the best thing ever is that there’s Spanish and it’s written correctly which YES! However, it was italicized which threw me off but I still appreciate it.
Characters – 3 out of 5 stars
This story is about Dani and her relationship with her family, there’s no way around that. Even though I enjoyed the side characters, they definitely don’t have that big of a role in the story as a whole. We see from Dani’s POV and it’s all about her, most of the time. I had a hard time connecting with Dani. I felt for her and what she was going through but I didn’t feel any connection to her. I’m blessed to have never lost a parent and even then, I most likely would not feel as conflicted and shut off to it as Dani does. She’s angry and sad but also numb to all those things and letting life go on around her. She’s practically silent and mute, very introverted and lost within herself. She’s grieving but not really allowing herself to go through the process completely because she’s full of rage at the same time. I loved reading about her growth and her journey through all these tumultuous emotions though. She meets a guy named Paulo and his grandmother Doña Marcela and they are so amazing. They bring Latinx culture into this story which I really loved. I really liked Paulo and his interactions with Dani. He understood her in a way that I didn’t and I connected with him on a different level, so getting to see him talk and help Dani, helped me to understand her better as well. Doña Marcela says very little but she’s definitely tough. One of those grandmothers with a no nonsense attitude but the kindest soul and touch of anyone else in your life. I loved her silent support. Finally, Dani learns of her family through Shelly, her aunt she’d never known she’d had. They both struggle so much in this book but I really enjoyed the progression of their relationship and how they slowly began to open up to each other. That was definitely my favorite part of this book.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but it was very powerful and raw. I requested it because of the author since I knew she was Latinx and I’m very impressed with her writing style.
The plot is full of emotion. We follow Dani, who has a tough relationship with her mom who then dies after being mauled by a bear in their backyard. Dani is then sent to live with her aunt that she didn’t even know existed and the grief and anger come with her and haunt her. The plot isn’t linear so I find it really hard to articulate how I feel about this book. Dani’s story is really heartbreaking and intense. This is accentuated by the way the story is formatted. This book is divided into three different parts. All of them cover different parts of Dani’s journey and have different lengths to each of them. This really threw me off in the beginning because I’m so used to reading chapter by chapter, that it took me awhile to grasp why and how these parts told the story. Right off the bat, the story starts with showing us Dani’s relationship with her mom which is not the best and her subsequent death which sends Dani into a tailspin of emotions that she can’t really identify. It was so powerful and written in such a way that it hit me and I felt so much for Dani and what she was going through. The indecision and all the different emotions she goes through are so intense that she just shuts down and becomes numb to everything around her. This was her attitude for the majority of the book which didn’t really help me connect with her but made so much sense to her life and her journey and what she was going through. Some of the scenes in this book were really confusing and some even dangerous and life threatening. I became really worried about Dani’s health and her well being and she didn’t really receive enough attention on her behavior for the majority of the book in my opinion. There’s a very unique and specific way that the author uses to express and explain Dani’s grief and emotional turmoil that took me a while to get used to and to realize that it was that, a depiction of how she was feeling. It felt kind of weird and strange at first because it’s not something that I’ve ever read before but I think it was an amazing way to help me understand Dani and how she felt specially since I didn’t connect with her that way. She also does things that can really hurt her but not consciously which is where the dangerous part comes in. I’m glad she did not die because of them but I think there should’ve been a lot more focus on that and making sure she was being healthy much earlier than it actually happened. There’s a section in this book where we get a different POV that explains a lot of why Dani’s mom was the way she was and that was freaking heartbreaking and sad and totally necessary for the reader and for Dani to know. It’s so crazy how things happen in life and if you don’t process them or deal with them, they’ll snowball and affect so many other people along the way. I really loved how the author explored that in this book. But yeah, this book was really easy to read and the ending was quite sweet and very hopeful which made me happy. I also have to say that there’s a slight romance here though it doesn’t take a bigger spotlight than it should which I appreciate.
I’ve talked about Dani a lot above so I’ll try to keep this part brief. I found it really hard to connect to her because she’s so disconnected from life around her and from her emotions. It’s something that was really hard to read because as the reader, it’s so easy to see how much that’s hurting her whether or not she thinks so. She gets herself into dangerous situations but also manages to meet a lot of great people who help her and keep an eye out for her. She learned a lot of things about her family and where she comes from and made sense of her relationship with her mom. I loved her journey and her growth as a character. She focuses a lot of on a book called The Stranger which I’ve never read which was a bit frustrating while reading this book, but the main character of that book goes through life emotionless after the death of his mother and Dani understands him a whole lot. I liked seeing how a book helped her come to terms with how she was feeling and how she wanted her life to be because I feel like that’s true for all of us.
Now I’ll talk a little about the side characters. I really liked Paulo. I loved how he made sure to interact with Dani. He understood her grief and sadness and managed to make her feel safe in his presence most of the time while still sort of pushing her to feel and to grief and to go through her emotions. He’s so sweet and kind and I loved how he spoke about movies. Their relationship was really genuine. Doña Marcela says very little and yet I felt her presence immensely throughout the novel. A strong and supportive figure always there to lend a helping hand with such clear morals and values. She reminded me a lot of my own grandma with her no nonsense attitude and her natural remedies to sadness like tea haha. I loved how their showed their Latinx culture and how that kind of helped Dani as well in a very particular way. Dani meets a few friends in school that aren’t really a central part of the story, but I loved how pretty much all of them were Latinx and how frankly they spoke of their lives and their futures. They definitely brought some comic relief to an otherwise intense story and I appreciated that. Last but not least, I liked Shelley. I felt for her and her life and how things got so far away from her control which caused her to have a kind of empty life. I’m so happy with how her relationship with Dani developed and how they began to lean on each other. It was such a great arc and it was my favorite part of the story.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I definitely did not know how it was gonna be when I started but I’m really glad that I read it. I didn’t connect with the main character as much as I wanted but I loved reading about her journey. The writing was really unique and the author managed to explain a lot of things in very special ways. I’m interested to read more of her books now.
So that’s it for this post! Another review that I share really late because work keeps me way too busy. I would love to know if you guys have heard of this book and if you’re thinking about reading it. Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!