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 Paulo, who understands how much Dani is hurting. Although she is hesitant at first, a mutual trust and affection develop between Dani and Paulo, 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.
Because of the Sun is a complex novel about family, dissociation, and toxic relationships. Told primarily from the POV of Dani, a girl who has had an abusive upbringing thanks to a mother who seemed to hate her, it tells the story of a girl who doesn’t feel like she has a place in the world. Before you jump to “ah, another angst novel”, it is to be noted that this is a character who has dissociated from the world and whose favorite way of getting numb is getting a sunstroke on a semi-regular basis. The book doesn’t shy from displaying toxic parenting, whether it is the one from Dani’s mother, or from Dani’s grandfather to his two daughters: the theme is to connect two people who were hurting the same, in this case, Dani and her aunt Shelley. There is also a lot of symbolism going on, with the bear and the constant hallucinations and dreams – it was past my bedtime when I was reading it, so forgive me for not going deep into it. But the fact is that it detracts from the main storyline a lot – it is written well when it comes to being in the mind of the character, but it suffers from an imbalance when it comes to progressing the story. The romance, too, seemed superfluous, and I felt it was there for the sake of it. Overall, I would recommend this book if you love emotional stories about family and healing.
Received a free galley from Random House Children’s, via Netgalley.