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An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette
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Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater and Morgan Beem (illustrator)
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Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas
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War Stories by Gordon Korman
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Trouble in the Stars: 06/21/21

Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas

Trouble in the Stars by Sarah Prineas is a middle grade science fiction adventure set in space. Trouble is a shapeshifter. In their non-shifted state, they are a white gelatinous sphere.

For most of the novel, though, Trouble choses to be a human boy. Trouble uses the pronouns that seem to best fit the body they're in. So as a human, that means he/him. The one thing he hates, though, is being called an it.

I heard about this book back in December 2020. I was curious to read it for the depiction of Trouble as a nonbinary character. In that time, though, I've also started watching the anime To Your Eternity (不滅のあなたへ) based on a manga by the same name by Yoshitoki Ōima. The similarities between the two are striking (although I believe coincidental). So if you like the anime or the manga and a similar story but in space, I recommend Trouble the Stars.

There is one big difference between the two stories. Namely, the lack of death. In the Japanese story the shapeshifter learns to copy the first few times by taking on the form of dead companions: a wolf, a boy (their main form), a bear, and a little girl. Trouble, on the other hand, seems to have come into being knowing how to transform into different creatures — not just that he can — but the actual blueprints of them. Given that Prineas only has 256 pages to tell Trouble's story, it makes sense that he comes into being knowing more than his manga counterpart.

Trouble's story is also a journey in the road narrative spectrum. Trouble is a scarecrow/minotaur traveler (99). He personally believes he is good and goes out of his way to help and protect his humanoid crewmates on the Hindsight. They, though, are faced with the possibility that Trouble is actually an escaped criminal or something else dangerous. Thus he is both a protector (scarecrow) and a threat (minotaur).

The goal for Trouble is home (66). Home is somewhere safe. Home might be where there are other shapeshifters (if there are any). Home might be a more secured position on Hindsight.

The route is the maze (CC), meaning the way to reaching that desired state of safety and belonging is fraught with blind alleys and other dangers. In the climax of the novel, there is also a literal maze that could possibly prevent Trouble from reaching his goal and put his found family into unnecessary danger.

Thus thematically, Trouble in the Stars is about a scarecrow/minotaur searching for home via the maze (9966CC).

Five stars

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