August 06


To the Stars! To the Stars! by Anne Beamish

tin star

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Science Fiction, Young Adult Literature


Summer vacation time is the time when I can finally check off some titles from my YA reading list. Cecil Castellucci’s Tin Star has been sitting on my bookshelf since the winter when she came to Montreal for a book signing.


Cecil Castellucci is a prolific YA writer whose novels include The First Day on Earth, Boy Proof, Beige, Rose Sees Red and The Queen of Cool as well as graphic novels such as The Plain Janes and Janes in Love.  Her novels all feature interesting young protagonists dealing with the problems inherent in being young and growing up in an imperfect world.


I was happy to finally get to Tin Star.  Most of my YA reading is intended to help me better recommend titles to teachers and students.  When I am looking for books that might interest students, I usually seek out titles that will engage them and make them want to read more.  I like to call them gateway books.  Tin Star falls into this category for me because it is a good introduction to science fiction for young readers and offers a character that young people can identify with.


Tin Star features a fourteen year-old intergalactic colonist, Tula Bane, who is travelling with her family and the rest of the Children of the Earth colonist on the Prairie Rose. The ship makes an unexpected stop at the Yertina Feray space station where Tula is beaten and left for dead by their leader Brother Blue.  The Prairie Rose does not make it to its destination and the colonists on board, including Tula’s mother and sister, perish.  Abandoned, alone, and more than a little angry, Tula quickly learns that she has to fend for herself if she is to survive and eventually leave the space station and exact revenge on Brother Blue. An alien named Heckleck saves her helps her integrate into life on the space station.


What I like about Tin Star is the strong female protagonist who uses the social and political structure of the space station to outwit the powerful leaders on Yertina Feray. Tula’s strength is her resourcefulness.  While it is initially her undoing at the hands of Brother Blue, it allows her to become indispensible as a runner and trader for her friend and business partner Heckleck.   She also comes to develop a relationship with the Commander Tournour who has a soft spot for her from their first meeting.


I really liked this book, it is a different take on dystopian fiction that features female protagonists. Tula is an interesting character that the reader can really identify with as she makes her way through the politics and pitfalls of life on the space station. The story follows an emancipatory model common in dystopian YA as Tula realizes that all is not as it seems on the Yertina Ferray or in fact in the universe. The world created in Tin Star is not perfect but is full of interesting beings and technological innovations that are well described.


Eventually Tula finds a home on the space station, and realizes that she will need to wait for the right time to exact her revenge on Brother Blue.  Some readers may find that there is a lack of resolution to the story.  They will be happy to know that Tin Star is, in fact, the first installment of a series with the next book due out in 2015.


Anne Beamish is a former secondary school English teacher who now works for the English Montreal School Board as and ELA Consultant. She also teaches YA Lit to undergraduates at McGill University. Anne loves all things YA and is currently finishing her TBR list.