A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sky Without Stars is the first in a planned sci-fi series, and at just under 600 pages in the first installment, it's best for strong readers. This far-future epic set on the French planet Laterre borrows heavily from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, and could inspire readers to watch the movie musical or read the original. Violence is mostly fights with punching, kicking, and knocking unconscious. There's no gore, but blood is sometimes mentioned briefly, and once or twice bone-crunching sounds are mentioned. A couple of bad guys are physically abusive to family members. There's a horrifying public execution, and the murder of a 3-year-old by poisoning is an important plot point. There's very little sexy stuff -- just a couple of kisses and some romantic thoughts and feelings of attraction. Strong language is very rare but includes the French word for "t-t" ("tette"), "damn," and "whores." Adults drink "weed wine," but the teen main characters don't like it. A couple of minor characters have alcoholic tendencies. Themes explored include seeking the truth, becoming aware of the bigger world around you, and shifting your focus from yourself to the effect you have on your world and those around you.
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What's the story?
In the distant future, three teens live under the planet Laterre's perpetual clouds so that the only sky they know is a SKY WITHOUT STARS. Growing up on the starving streets of the downtrodden workers, Chatine just wants off the forsaken planet and steals anything she can get her hands on so she can buy a ticket and get out of there. But does she want out badly enough to betray those she cares about? Marcellus is the grandson of the ruling ministry's highest officer and is expected to take his grandfather's place one day. But the more he's exposed to the harsh realities of the regime he'll one day control, the more he starts to wonder if he'll be able to do his duty when an all-out rebellion comes. Alouette wants to become a full member of the secret sisterhood that preserves and protects ancient knowledge from the First World, but the more she learns about everything else, the less she can stand her father's secretiveness. Her determination to learn the truth sets a chain of events in motion that could have drastic consequences for everyone.
Is it any good?
At just under a whopping 600 pages, this science-fiction epic manages to stay compelling throughout, thanks to the three different narrators offering different viewpoints of events and one another. Readers familiar with Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, or the movie musical based on it, will recognize a lot of events and characters in Sky Without Stars. The unique, far-future world is fully realized to offer Hugo fans an interesting comparison while being strong enough on its own to satisfy sci-fi fans who may not know anything about the original.
Teens will relate to the characters as they explore social inequality, the search for the truth, learning to empathize, and turning their thoughts away from themselves and out toward their impact on others and on the world around them. The length, harsh realities, and mature themes make it best for strongly independent teen readers and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Sky Without Stars compares with Les Misérables. Have you seen the movie version of that classic or read the book? If you have, which characters and events do you recognize? If you haven't, would you like to now?
The sisterhood that Alouette lives with is determined to preserve as much knowledge of the past as it can. Why is that important? How do events from long ago affect our lives now?
What are some of your favorite sci-fi series? How does this one compare?
- Authors: Jessica Brody, Joanne Rendell
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon Pulse
- Publication date: March 26, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 592
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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