Tin Star, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Tin Star, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Nuanced, exciting sci-fi tale of survival on space station.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Although set on a space station occupied by various aliens. Tin Star strives for realism. Faster-than-light travel is acknowledged and allowed for the sake of the plot. The alien species are distinct but within the realm of plausibility.

Positive Messages

Tin Star emphasizes that honesty and empathy are important for survival, and that the urge for instant vengeance can be destructive.

Positive Role Models & Representations

At the start of Tin Star, 16-year-old Tula Bane dreams only of getting off the space station where she's stranded and then exacting vengeance on the Imperium official who's wronged her. She survives through her bravery and resourcefulness, but by the end of the book, she's able to see her predicament from a different, perhaps healthier, perspective.

Violence

Scenes in Tin Star contain violence but aren't overly graphic. The novel opens with Tula Bane being beaten and left for dead, and as the story goes on, some of her friends and family are killed "off stage." Tula and another human face off in a duel, but the results aren't fatal. Tula is stabbed at one point, and two other characters are shot to death.

Sex

Tin Star doesn't have much sexual content. Tula's attracted to a human teen named Reza; their romance seems to involve mostly hugging and kissing. She also shares a passionate kiss with a female character, who's trying to manipulate her. 

Language
Consumerism

There's no consumerism-related content in Tin Star.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

To escape the space station, two of Tula's friends take an alien poison whose effects mimic death.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cecil Castellucci's Tin Star is an exciting, well-written coming-of-age science fiction novel set on a space station that's home to a wide mix of aliens. It features a compelling, complex female protagonist, as well as an intriguing supporting cast. There's some violence, including beatings and fatal shootings, but the scenes aren't graphic. There's no strong language, and drug use is confined to knockout poison used in an escape attempt. Minimal sexual content consists mostly of hugging and kissing (including a passionate embrace shared by two young women).

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What's the story?

Left for dead by a charismatic colonial leader, 16-year-old Tula Bane swears she'll find a way to get off the remote space station and exact vengeance. First, however, she has to find a way to survive as the only human among a confusing mix of aliens. Thanks to the local constable and a shady trader, she's able to build a rough-and-tumble life for herself. But the arrival of three other humans threatens to upset all of Tula's plans.

Is it any good?

TIN STAR is a solid, exciting science fiction story with an interesting cast of characters and an intriguing female protagonist, Tula Bane. Although there's plenty of action, the nuanced plot also pays attention to the politics of Tula's plight. Some readers might be reminded of the classic film Casablanca in the way author Cecil Castellucci spins out intrigue in a closed-off environment. Although the novel resolves satisfyingly, there's room for further exploration of this milieu and of Tula's quest for justice.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss why people choose to emigrate. What situations might force families to move to another country?

  • What makes outer-space adventures so popular? What's intriguing about living on a space station? How does this space story compare with others you've read or seen in movies? 

  • How can you develop trust with someone whose background is very different from your own?

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