Title: Trouble in the Stars
Author: Sarah Prineas
Genre: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Publisher: Philomel Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: April 27, 2021
An outer-space adventure about a troublesome little shape-shifter on the run from the law.
Trouble knows two things: they are a shapeshifter, and they are running from something–but they don’t know what. So when the government–the StarLeague–shows up, Trouble figures it’s time to flee.
Changing from blob of goo form, to adorable puppy form, to human boy form, Trouble stows away on the Hindsight, a ship crewed by the best navigators and engineers in the galaxy, led by the fearsome Captain Astra. When Trouble is discovered, the captain decides to be nice–instead of tossing them out an airlock, she’ll drop Trouble off at the next space station.
As the ship travels, Trouble uses the time to figure out how to be a good human boy, and starts to feel safe. But when a young StarLeague cadet shows up to capture Trouble, things get complicated, especially when Trouble reveals a shapeshifter form that none of them could have expected. Soon a chase across the galaxy begins. Safety, freedom, and home are at stake, and not just for Trouble.
Trouble is a shapeshifter who finds themself on a spaceship. Trouble can change shape from a blob of goo to a puppy to a human. Trouble’s gender can change between different forms. When they stow away on the Hindsight, Captain Astra decides to keep Trouble on board until they reach the next space station. However, the Hindsight is being chased by the Starleague, the law enforcers of space, who are looking for an escaped prisoner. Trouble and the rest of the crew have to run from the law, while Trouble is also looking for the home that they came from.
This story introduced some complex ideas for young readers who may not have come across them in fiction before. One main idea was gender fluidity. Trouble’s gender changes depending on the shape that they are in. As a puppy, Trouble was a girl, but as a human Trouble was a boy. There were different species of humanoids on the ship that also expressed gender in different ways. Some were gender fluid, like Trouble. Another one shared a mind between different bodies. There were also some humans who identified as their biological gender. This is a great way to introduce complex gender ideas through science fiction characters.
Another large idea that was in this story was what it means to be a person. Since Trouble was a shapeshifter who didn’t have a permanent body, others questioned whether or not they were a person. Trouble also didn’t know where they came from, so they wanted to find their origins. This idea was explored more at the end of the story so I won’t give away the ending. I think this was a great way to introduce a complex idea with a complex character.
I really enjoyed this middle grade science fiction story!
Thank you Penguin for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Target Practice by Mike Maihack
Winterling by Sarah Prineas
Have you read Trouble in the Stars? What did you think of it?