Tag Archives: Cecil Castellucci

Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Tin StarPremise: Tula Bane is on her way to colonize the planet Beta Granade with the rest of the Children of Earth when she is beaten and left for dead by the group’s leader, Brother Blue, on the Yertina Feray space station. Here she is the only Human, considered a Minor Species in the galaxy. It is on this remote station where Tula makes her life scrounging and trading favors since word of her ship, the Prairie Rose, did not make it to its destination. She must learn the ways of other beings in order to survive.

When news comes that Brother Blue is still alive, she uses all the favors available to her to plot and plan for finding him and exacting her revenge. The station’s security chief, Captain Tournour, is there every step of the way keeping the peace and making sure nothing illegal goes unpunished. It is the unlikeliest of alien friendships that keeps her going daily.

But then a ship carrying three more Humans crashes on the station causing her to rethink her alliances. Through her relationships with these aliens and Humans, Tula learns all about love and friendship, and she has to decide what is really important for love and survival.

Themes: Friendship comes to the forefront, especially in Tula’s dealings with the alien Heckleck. They become best friends as the only person she trusts is the alien with no emotions. Tula’s connection with other Humans makes her question if they should be friends because of their close affinity or because she actually trusts them.

Tula’s experiences with death and loss, with her family continuing to the settlement without her, leave her open to failure. When she learns that the ship didn’t make it to its destination, her hope is crushed by her family’s death. And when she loses more people in her life Tula could very easily fall into despair, but there are others there to support her and lift her up.

When more Humans step into her life, Tula has ample opportunities for love to grow. She even toys with the thoughts of romantic relationships and tests them, with mixed results. But the biggest surprise comes at the most important crossroads of her life when everything is at stake.

Pros: Cecil Castellucci does some things very well in Tin Star, like making you care about the friendship between a sixteen-year-old girl and a bug-like alien. The characters have an interesting interplay in the setting on the space station, leaving me feeling the claustrophobia of being stuck together in a place and not being able to go anywhere. There are some great emotional moments in the book, one right at the beginning, one in the middle, and another at the end. It’s almost like Castellucci spaced them out evenly on purpose.

Cons: Even with the good character development, I felt like from the moment they step onto the page each Human is not to be trusted, which made it difficult to care about any of them. My biggest gripe is the abrupt ending to a book that seemed to rocket by me, and now I have to wait for the second half of the story.

Recommendations: Tin Star has its ups and downs, but there’s a lot packed into this fast-paced book. I would have preferred a 400 page full combined version with the second book so I didn’t have to wait for the rest of the story, but also because of the chopped off feeling at the end. I still think it’s a good commentary on love and loss, especially for people who live a solitary life. Tin Star will make you think about the people around you in a different light, but maybe only because some people are stranger than the aliens in the book.

Cecil Castellucci’s website
Tin Star on Goodreads
Buy Tin Star on Amazon
Download Tin Star for your Kindle
I received a copy from the author to write this honest review.

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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Science Fiction, Young Adult


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Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci & Sara Varon (Illustrator)

Odd DuckPremise: Theodora might have some quirks, but she leads a quiet, perfectly normal life, in her own eyes. She stays home when all the other ducks are flying south for the winter. She practices balancing her teacup on her head when she swims and she practices flapping her wings for a time when she might need to fly. When Chad moves in next door, Theodora instantly realizes that he is odd. He is unorganized, builds strange creations in the front yard, dyes his feathers different colors, and talks nonstop.

But Theodora soon discovers they have some things in common. They like and dislike some of the same books. They like to watch the stars and eat some of the same foods. Through their time together they become good friends. But when they overhear someone mentioning that “odd duck” within earshot, neither of them is sure which one they are talking about. It might just be too much for either of them to either point a finger at the other or to accept that they themselves might just be an odd duck.

Themes: Odd Duck tackles the many aspects of friendship, including being alone, meeting new friends, enjoying spending time together, arguing over the smallest things, and reconciliation. Theodora was happy by herself, but when she meets Chad they hit it off and love doing things together, especially when they learn they have some shared interests. When they fight over the silliest of misunderstandings it will take some self-examination and humility to reconcile the relationship.

Not only does Odd Duck show aspects of friendship, it also highlights being yourself regardless of what others think and standing by your friends when others look down on them for their differences. When one of them is called odd, Chad and Theodora don’t know who it is that they are talking about, but it ends up hurting their friendship when they care what others think of them. It is only when they accept each other for who they are and realize that they might also be a bit odd that they are able to put aside those differences and go back to being friends.

Pros: Odd Duck does a great job quickly forming characters that stand out through some humorous things like Theodora practicing flapping her wings and Chad dying his feathers different colors. The contrast between these two ducks is obvious, but the way in which Castellucci and Varon manage to display through them a tight bond between friends, and the ways in which a friendship can quickly dissolve because of pride and shortsightedness and be reconciled out of true remorse is pretty amazing. The art is simple and colorful, but it makes the humor more pronounced without sacrificing emotion in the characters. It is in the understated moments where Odd Duck manages to evoke some real emotion.

Cons: Just as the title states, this book is a little odd. Though children will probably enjoy it in spite of being odd, they might not exactly understand all the little oddities it contains, such as putting mango salsa in duck food, practicing flapping, and dying feathers. There is potential for people to use this book to push unadulterated acceptance and approval of alternative lifestyles or for others on the opposite side to denounce it for a perceived political agenda. I think Odd Duck manages to sidestep those issues and deliver a clean, helpful message for children and adults to be nice, to accept others for who they are, and to be true to your friends.

Recommendations: Considered a children’s book, Odd Duck manages to have a lesson for everyone of all ages on how to treat others, when to stick by your friends, and what to think of yourself when others consider you to be odd. With some great but simple art, you’ll find yourself going back through to find the little details that Varon has sprinkled throughout the frames. Castellucci has written an easy to read, yet profound, story that doesn’t talk down to the reader or go down the road of being preachy or cheesy when it comes to giving a message of acceptance of others’ differences. Many people could do themselves well to read this charming little gem of a story, however odd it may be.

Cecil Castellucci’s website
Sara Varon’s website
Odd Duck on Goodreads
Buy Odd Duck on Amazon
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Childrens, Graphic Novel, Humor


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