Shame the Stars

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Shame the Stars Book Poster Image
Historical romance leans to soap-opera-style melodrama.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Explains some of the largely unknown history of southern Texas during the Mexican Revolution, especially the fraught relationships between revolutionaries, Tejanos, and the Texas Rangers. Lots of Spanish vocabulary with context clues in the story, plus a glossary in back with pronunciations and definitions. Author's Note provides historical details, explains her own process of discovering this hidden chapter in American history, and hopes the novel will help kids learn the difference between primary and secondary resources as they navigate the internet and learn about their own history.

Positive Messages

Violence only leads to more violence. If you want to change things, you need to protest and work toward change peacefully. Words are important, and especially when they're empowered by passion they have the power to inspire people and bring about change.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Joaquín is brave and a passionate defender of those he loves. His temper sometimes leads to fights, but the negative consequences are shown and as he matures he learns that violence only leads to more violence. He knows that as a citizen, it affects him when others are mistreated by those in power. Dulceña resents the restrictions imposed on her by society; she wants to travel the world, and use her writing and journalism skills to combat injustice. She demands respect and to be an equal partner in her romantic relationship.

Violence

Guns and knives used; important characters are shot, and one dies. Rape mentioned several times, usually indirectly, as in they "had their way with" women. But once or twice "rape" is also used. Social unrest and rebellion including hangings, property seizures, vigilantism, beatings, bodies abandoned in the desert, destruction of property mentioned. Several fistfights with blood mentioned but not described. Threat of torturing someone. A villain backhands a woman and knocks her down. The Author's Note clarifies historical context and mentions crimes too horrific to be documented.

Sex

Several kisses. Concern that a young bride may be pregnant. Prostitutes mentioned.

Language

"Damn" and "hell." Verbal hostility, name calling includes "pig" and one racial slur: "bean eater."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink brandy and smoke cigars at a social gathering once. Father needs a drink and has some brandy. Joaquín (17) is given pulque and doesn't like it. Opium prescribed as a sleeping aid.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shame the Stars is a historical romance by award-winning author Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Under the Mesquite). Set along the Texas-Mexico border during the Mexican revolution, it will open kids' eyes to a largely hidden chapter in our history. Guns and knives are used, important characters are shot, one dies, and blood and pain are sometimes mentioned but not described. Mentions of violence against the people include hangings, seizing property and evicting families, leaving bodies out in the desert. The resulting social unrest and payback-type violence are important backdrops and events. There are a few kisses, prostitutes are mentioned, and parents of a young bride fear she's marrying because she's pregnant. "Hell" and "damn" are used a few times, and one bad guy uses the slur "bean eater." The good guys try to do what's right and learn from their mistakes, and the bad guys are just plain bad. Lots of Spanish vocabulary can be learned from the glossary in the back, and the author's note explains the hope that kids will learn a lot about how to assess information in the internet age, especially as they begin to explore their own histories.

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What's the story?

In SHAME THE STARS, 16-year-old Joaquín del Toro enjoys life on the family ranch surrounded by family and friends, especially best friend and true love Dulceña. But when violent political events surrounding the Mexican Revolution cause a rift between the young lovers' fathers, Joaquín and Dulceña become separated. Unrest in the area reaches a fever pitch, and the Texas Rangers target the family ranch for harboring Tejano rebels. Joaquín and Dulceña have to decide how they're going to confront the world they live in while at the same time figuring out how they can be together. Eventually, everyone's caught up in or victimized by the violence and turbulence of the times. Can the pair find a way forward -- and a future together?

Is it any good?

Historical romance fans will be captivated by this melodramatic story of love during tumultuous times. Author Guadalupe Garcia McCall ably evokes the landscape of South Texas and the lives of the Tejanos during the Mexican Revolution. But the corny, stilted dialogue and emphasis on melodrama make it read more like a soap-opera script than a novel.

Tween and teen romance fans won't mind, though, as Shame the Stars sweeps them up into the lives and events of the likeable protagonists. They'll also learn a lot about Tejano culture and history, and how events of the past continue to affect our lives today.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the events in Shame the Stars. Do you think the real events of those times still affect life there today? How?

  • Which journal and newspaper clippings at the beginning of each chapter are real, and which are made up? How can you tell? Why did the author include them?

  • Did you read the poem "Tejano" at the beginning? What do you think "shame the stars" means?

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