Star Daughter

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Star Daughter Book Poster Image
Vivid, unique fantasy highlights friendship, family.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers will learn a little about Hindu mythology and astrology, South Asian culture and folklore, and some words in Gujarati via context clues.

Positive Messages

People need to be free to make their own choices, make mistakes, be imperfect so that they can learn and grow. What they choose to do, or not do, with what they learn is what gives life meaning. They also need to try to be better and do better, especially by being more compassionate. An important way of learning how to be better is through the arts: music, stories, performance, painting, etc. Shows importance of strong bonds of friendship and family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sheetal can be self-centered, is tired of being told what to do and how to be. But she and best friend Minal model strong bonds of friendship, and Sheetal and her family model strong ties of love, support, care, protection. No one is all good or all bad; everyone is nuanced. Some have done terrible things, most have made mistakes, but trying to get people to break a centuries-old cycle of revenge and put the past in the past becomes a prominent theme.

Violence

Some self-harm from Sheetal: picking at a fingernail until it bleeds, reopening the wound. Fantasy violence includes a story with beating, scratching, slapping, scorching, and cutting a fantasy being for her blood. A stabbing with magical blood and pain briefly described. In the past, a child was abandoned and died violently, and another was murdered.

Sex

A few kisses. Teens home alone go up to a bedroom and kiss and cuddle under a blanket. Some flirting and showing romantic feelings with looks and small touches.

Language

"S--tty," "crap" one time each.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens of age in a fantasy world drink "frostberry wine" and nectar, but not to excess. A character drinks the blood of fantasy beings and becomes addicted. Teens furtively smoking weed is mentioned as an example of a type of secret.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Star Daughter is a fantasy based on Hindu mythology and astrology. There are some depictions of self-harm from a character picking at a fingernail until it bleeds and reopening the wound several times, including brief descriptions of the distraction or relief she finds in the pain. Other violence is in the fantasy realm or in the past and includes cutting a magical being to sell its blood, a stabbing, child abandonment and death, and a child murdered in the past. Pain from a magical transformation is described in detail. There are a few kisses, flirting, and affectionate behavior. Profanity is limited to "crap" and "s--tty," once each. A character becomes addicted to drinking the blood of magical beings. Teens of age in the fantasy world drink "frostberry" wine and nectar, but not to excess. Strong ties of friendship and family are stressed. Overall messages are positive about learning from mistakes, moving on from the past, finding ways to be your best self, and encouraging people to be and do better by learning compassion from the arts.

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What's the story?

STAR DAUGHTER tells the story of Sheetal, whose mother is a star who descended from the sky, fell in love, and married a human man. Sheetal has always had to hide what she truly is for her own safety, but as her 17th birthday draws near, she begins to transform and to experience star powers she never knew she had. She doesn't know how to control her powers, though, and accidentally puts her father in the hospital, barely clinging to life. She decides to go up into the sky to meet her star family at last, knowing that they can give her their blood, which has the power to heal her father. She strikes a bargain with her star grandmother to perform in a contest that will determine the next house to rule over all the stars. If Sheetal wins the contest, her grandmother will give her the blood her father needs to recover. It quickly becomes clear, though, that the stars -- even her mother -- hide things and only tell Sheetal half the story. And when she learns that a victory might mean she can never go back to earth, Sheetal will need all the help she can get from friends and family to get the cure to her father.

Is it any good?

Debut author Shveta Thakrar has created an intriguing fantasy that uniquely blends Hindu mythology and astronomy with a relatable teen protagonist on the cusp of adulthood. Thakrar's talent for descriptions evokes a vivid, sometimes dazzling array of sights and sounds in Star Daughter that draw the reader into a richly conceived and wildly imaginative world. Some of the writing is almost poetic, and the rest of the time it's solid but not exceptional. There's a large cast of colorful, relatable, and fully realized characters in both the real and fantasy worlds.

The pace of the story slows a bit here and there, but the plot is solid. A few twists are easy to see coming, but most of it will keep readers guessing until the very end. Main character Sheetal can be a bit frustrating at times, but she's especially admirable for her loyalty, empathy, and call for compassion. Teens will relate to her struggle into adulthood and her need to find a way to be her best, truest self without having to hide anything from anyone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the positive messages and representations in Star Daughter. Why is it important to have access to books and other media about a variety of cultures and people?

  • Is Sheetal a positive role model? What did you like or not like about her? What are her character strengths and weaknesses?

  • How much violence is OK in books? Does it matter if it's fantasy violence or not? What about in other media like videos, games, and movies?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and South Asian stories

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