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Young Adult Fiction 93
heartfelt YA contemporary
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BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN is a consuming YA contemporary. Sol (short for Soledad) is 16 years old, and she is the only one in her family who was born over the US border and thus a citizen. Therefore, she leaves home early every morning to leave Tijuana and travel across the border to attend high school. She dreams of going to a good college and doing something amazing with her future career. However, since her mother's death, her family has been struggling, and their restaurant has hit hard times.

To help make ends meet for her family, she has taken a job in the US at a retail store warehouse, where at minimum wage, she will make more than anyone else in her family could in Tijuana. To do so, she will be staying with a friend, away from her family during the week. This is particularly difficult because of her younger brother who is dealing with bullying, and her desire to help as much as she can. With the new job and school, Sol is finding herself a bit overwhelmed and missing her family - at the same time, she can now have more of a social life than she could when she had to spend so much time commuting across the border. Her complicated feelings grow as the story continues until she is left with a choice.

What I loved: This was a lovely story about family, choices, the struggle to have/do it all, prejudice, friendship, and grief/loss. While it has been some time since her mother died, Sol and their family feel her loss acutely. She stepped into her mother's shoes in a bunch of small ways, helping to hold the family together, doing dishes, and taking care of her younger brother. While the job is taking her away from home, it also gives her the opportunity to strengthen her friendships in ways she has not previously. Her guilt and complicated feelings around this are a source of internal strife.

Beyond the central story with her family and their business, Sol and other students who also commute face prejudices in school and she begins to see these at her job too. Her brother is also facing bullying, but for seeming too sensitive. This hatred is a heavy weight to bear for both of them and for another student, who is facing it acutely in a possible suspension.

Although it deals with some heavy topics, the story manages to have a lot of bright spots as Sol balances the things important to her and comes to some of her own realizations about what she wants and what matters the most to her. She also meets a boy that she develops feelings for, and learns that while Soledad feels like a curse to be lonely, she does not have to be alone.

Final verdict: BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN is a heartfelt story of internal conflict, family, and figuring out what matters most.
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