I had a lot of high hopes for this one especially since I really loved The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. It’s her first foray into sci-fi and while it definitely carried those themes, it hit the mark for me.
Outsmart Your Enemies. Outrun the Galaxy.
Tina never worries about being ‘ordinary’—she doesn’t have to, since she’s known practically forever that she’s not just Tina Mains, average teenager and beloved daughter. She’s also the keeper of an interplanetary rescue beacon, and one day soon, it’s going to activate, and then her dreams of saving all the worlds and adventuring among the stars will finally be possible. Tina’s legacy, after all, is intergalactic—she is the hidden clone of a famed alien hero, left on Earth disguised as a human to give the universe another chance to defeat a terrible evil.
But when the beacon activates, it turns out that Tina’s destiny isn’t quite what she expected. Things are far more dangerous than she ever assumed. Luckily, Tina is surrounded by a crew she can trust, and her best friend Rachel, and she is still determined to save all the worlds. But first she’ll have to save herself.
Buckle up your seatbelt for this thrilling sci-fi adventure set against an intergalactic war from international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders.
From the premise alone, I thought this was going to be a YA version of something Becky Chambers would write. And in many ways it was. It had the rag tag team of aliens from across the galaxy. They each had their own personality, they introduced themselves with their preferred pronouns. And many of the explanations Tina and Rachel ask for are met with a direct response that gives you more context to how the world works.
The added bonus of this book that Becky Chambers doesn’t have is the addition of six human kids from Earth. I really liked this component especially since each of the kids has their own personality, their own backstory, and reasons for doing what they do. From building robots that make music with their girlfriend or running away from people who don’t understand you, this book runs the gamut. I think many people who read this book will feel the inclusion right away and happy to see themselves written into a story. I’m going to say it because this is exactly how I felt while I read it; this was The Goonies in Space.
It definitely feels like a Charlie Jane Anders books where the emphasis is more on the characters and their development. Much of the story centers the six kids and their lives which was great, but then the other characters (who were all aliens) were kind of left by the wayside. I also wanted to get to know them or at least hear some secrets from the universe.
There was also this bigger theme of otherness as well. One of the main goals of the villain was to destroy the life that doesn’t look like humans. Aliens from across the galaxy that have two legs and two arms were saved by the villain, but anyone else was considered fodder for murder. I love that Tina and the rest of the Goonies came out to prove them wrong and show that despite what you look like (whether it’s three arms and three heads or you’re a blob-person), there’s always something good to find in them.
And then there’s this epic villain who reminded me so much of Thanos from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His power, his strength, and his reasoning were all parts of him you should fear. However, his motivation for all of this outside of wanting to endorse the anti-humanoid agenda felt lost.
I think my biggest issue with this book is that a lot of context is missing for the sake of the adventures. There was a lot of action, but not enough time to explain what was going on or what the bigger plot was going to be. I get that this is a YA story, but not all YA stories need to move at lightning speed. I wanted more context especially when it came to Marrant and Tina’s relationship, their motivations, and ultimately what they were trying to accomplish.
Overall, this has been a fun one and will move quickly. I loved the humanizing aspects, the found family, and even the romance that happens in the story, but I think in the end, I wanted so much more from a space epic.
Thanks to Tor Teen for gifting me a copy of this book. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.