YA lit comes in many different forms, but not all that many genres. This is not a soap box issue, but it’s nice to see a wonderful YA novel in my genre of choice: science fiction – “real” science fiction, with space ships and aliens and all that. Thankfully, the constant YA themes of feeling alone, of having to make your way in an unsympathetic world, of finding the inner strength you need when your safety net deserts you – all these are found in a wonderfully otherworldly way in 2014’s Tin Star, the first of two books written by Cecil Castellucci set in our future (Stone in the Sky, the second book in the series, was published in February of this year).
Fourteen year old Tula Bane’s life has just spiraled out of control. She was set to be with her mother and sister on the Prairie Rose when it left the space station Yertina Feray, on its way to establish a Humans-only colony on Beta Granade with the isolationist sect Children of Earth and its charismatic leader, Brother Blue. But when Tula questioned Brother Blue about some critical supplies being left behind, the man who had directed her family’s destiny for years turns on her, beating her savagely and leaving her for dead, even as he tells her mother and sister that she has been chosen to stay behind and help him in a important organizational effort.
The ship had five shiny points, its metal glinting in the glare of the weak sun. It looked like a tin star, the kind I had seen in history books, the kind that officers of the law wore. I managed to lift my hand, as though to touch the ship, before it vanished from sight.
Now she is the only Human on a space station where Humans are a minor species, and are often reviled by more “advanced” races as being loud and reckless in their wanderlust. Luckily Tula is clever, and knows when to stay quiet and learn, and when to make herself scarce. She also is befriended by Heckleck, an entrepreneurial Hort who uses her to run errands, and in return he teaches her about survival. It also helps that Constable Tournour, the Loor who heads Yertina Feray’s security, tends to look the other way when Tula dances along the edge of the rules.
Time passes, and although Tula pines for her family and plots for revenge against Brother Blue, she feels as if she has found a place in the underguts of this foreign place. That is, until three more Humans show up on the space station; three young adults whose malfunctioning spacecraft lands them on Yertina Feray, but who are part of a new movement of a powerful force that has already made itself known – the Imperium. Their appearance once again throws Tula’s life into turmoil, especially when she learns that Brother Blue’s scheming has gone beyond a handful of colonies; he seems to have his sights fixed on manipulating the Imperium, itself. Could these Humans be her way off Yertina Feray? Would their involvement with the Imperium give her even a remote chance of getting back at the man who took her family and ruined her life?
Tin Star is a wonderful, quick moving book that can be appreciated by readers of all ages. Tula is a believable every-girl who rises to the occasion without losing her own sensitivities and values; it’s easy to relate to the thoughts she has and the actions she takes. The development of friendships in the book, despite all the differences, rings true in any situation. Even years into the future, we’re all still human, after all, whatever that means.
Very highly recommended.