Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci Book Review

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: February 25, 2014

Tula is supposed to be heading with her family to a new world on board a colony ship. Instead, she finds herself stuck on a remote space station, left for dead, with no way of leaving and no friends. Living by her wits and trading for what she needs, Tula manages to eek out an existence on board the Yertina Feray. However, underneath she boils with anger at the colonists' leader, Brother Blue, the man who nearly killed her and who she is certain was the cause of her families' deaths as well. It isn't until three other humans arrive on the station that Tula begins to see a way for her to leave and exact revenge on Brother Blue.

I am always a fan of books that start in the middle of the "action". When this story opens, Tula Bane is lying on the floor, being kicked to death, and barely able to breath the air on the space station, knowing that if she doesn't play dead she will likely end up dead. The backstory, which comes soon after is quick and to the point. Although the story does start there, I don't want to give the false impression that this is an action-packed sci-fi. Although I really did like this story, it was definitely character-driven rather than plot-driven.

Tula is the only human on Yertina Feray and it remains that way for almost three years. I loved the way the author played around with that. If there were no other humans about would you really care about how your hair looked or even whether you were acting very human? Would you take on characteristics of aliens? What would it be like to not be touched by another human being for three years? Tula spends a lot of her time in a simulated greenhouse, eating the fruit and staring down at the abandoned planet below. She yearns for a home, a planet, and I was completely sucked into her world.

Despite how much I enjoyed the book, there were a few areas that fell a little flat for me. Tula is a very strong, street smart, intelligent character and yet she has a really hard time putting two and two together in regards to Brother Blue. Even when it is obvious to the reader that there is so much more going on, Tula remains in the dark and this felt so out-of-character for her. She knows something is wrong. In the entire three years that she has been sending transmissions to the colonies, she didn't figure out that something else was wrong? Even when the other humans arrive and give her more information on Brother Blue, it takes Tula a frustrating amount of time to put it all together. I understand that Tula desperately wants there to be a happy ending for her family, but the fact that Brother Blue was willing to lie and murder people should have been a clue that something was not on the up and up. The secondary characters are rather hit or miss in how well they are fleshed out. Tula's good alien friend is interesting and thought provoking as is the security guard at the station (I love him so much), while the stranded human teens were agonizingly simple. There are hints of this big universe out there, but since we are stuck with Tula, we know very little about it. I am hoping that as the series (I am assuming it will be a series) we will learn more about it.

Despite all that though, I really did love this. I read it in a day and I have great hopes for future books. The image of Tula, standing on simulated soil, her head pressed against glass, staring down at an abandoned planet is one that has really stuck with me and is the image I wish had been on the cover. Tula is strong and her internal struggles along with diabolical plans, made me wish the second book was already out.