100-Character Breakdown: An epistolary novel with incredibly genuine characters who develop through their differences.
Genre: Children’s lit, fiction
Publisher: Candlewick Press (February 2012)
Same Sun Here is an epistolary novel with two authors, each who writes from the perspective of one of the 12-year-old characters. Neela Vaswani writes the letters from Meena, whose family immigrated from India to New York City, and Silas House writes the letters from River, whose father is a Kentucky coal miner and whose grandmother is an environmental activist. Meena’s family is preparing for citizenship exams while River’s town is dealing with mountaintop removal. As the two pen pals exchange letters, they develop a connection, discovering what makes them different and similar. The novel takes place during the 2008 U.S. presidential election, which often provides a basis for the more complicated discussions between the two characters.
The benefits of having two authors is extraordinary — Vaswani and House play off of each other’s writing perfectly. They create a complicated yet refreshing relationship between these two characters, who dive into their varied perspectives on everything from politics to religion to music to family issues in their letters. While some of these topics seem like heavy territory for 12-year-olds, the execution is powerful. The two characters have genuine voices and perspectives, mixing in misunderstanding and humor, that make them feel real and honest. Their views never come across as contrived. It is the interaction between these characters that makes this book unique and successful. Despite just interacting through letters, Meena and River have a profound impact on each other’s development. The novel doesn’t tie up all the loose ends of each character’s conflict, but in some ways this enhances the book’s genuineness. Same Sun Here thrives in its exploration environmental, political, and social issues. But the heart behind Meena’s and River’s relationship is what makes this novel powerful.