A girl holds a lotus flower as black and gold patterns encircle her head

About the Book

Title: Star Daughter
Published: 2020
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia
Talky Talk: Own Fantasies
Bonus Factors: Hindu Mythology, Ode to Stardust
Factor: Family
Relationship Status: Support System

Content Warning: Star Daughter features a scene of violent abuse and themes of gaslighting that might be triggering for some readers.

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

This cover is stunning. The young woman—another Charlie Bowater special!—the astronomical motifs, the shiny! It’s so, so pretty. (And is perfect for the story within!

I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it until it’s no longer necessary (and then some): More diversity on covers, please!

The Deal:

Sheetal Mistry is the daughter of a human man and a star. She knows this and knows that she has to keep it under wraps, else she put her life and those she loves in danger. So she dyes her (gorgeous) silver hair black, she avoids singing in front of people, and she spends most nights staring up at the sky and hating her mother just a little bit for returning to her home in the heavens.

The song of the stars is getting stronger, however, and the hair dye is working less and less. Sheetal can feel herself losing control, and when a starfire flare leads to her Dad’s hospitalization, Sheetal finds herself traveling to her mother’s home. Little did she know that turning to her family for help would land her smack dab in the midst of major drama—and a tournament to prove her family’s power.

BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

Sheetal and her cousin Minal have the kind of BFF relationship we all wanted as teens. They tell each other everything, they’re honest with each other, and they’d go to the ends of the earth—or, in this case, the tops of the atmosphere—to stand by each other in a time of need. I’d absolutely love to be friends with Sheetal, but I know it would be really hard for me to break into their tight-knit group of two.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Although Sheetal’s dad is super against Sheetal dating, Sheetal and newish kid in town, Dev, have something going on. It’s sweet … until it’s not.

But man, if Dev isn’t a worthy contender for the Book Boyfriend Hall of Fame, at least at first/on a surface level. He’s unbearably attractive, he sings like nobody’s business, and he writes (good) songs about Sheetal. I mean.

Talky Talk: Own Fantasies

Star Daughter is an impressive mix of fantasy and modern life. Sheetal’s two halves—life as a Desi girl in New Jersey and the whole being half star thing—meld beautifully, even if they at first seem too disparate to work. (And Sheetal herself struggles with them clashing!) Thakrar breathes magic into a contemporary setting and makes it easy to believe that there could be half-stars living amongst us and Night Markets held in that creepy abandoned lot downtown. This story makes me want to believe in magic again (even though, as a reader, I’ve never really stopped) and makes me long for more own voices-style stories that expand my horizons past the whiteness I’ve long lived with. (More on that below.)

Thakrar’s characters are equally impressive; Sheetal’s both powerful and fragile, thoughtful and selfish, and feels fully realized from the very start. And her depictions of the celestial home of the nakshatras is breathtaking and feels so fresh. (Mount Olympus, this is not.)

Bonus Factor: Hindu Mythology

An intricate Hindu statue featuring various gods.

I loved reading about the mythical creatures/stories in Star Daughter, even if it meant that I had to pause to look things up. Thakrar puts it beautifully in her author’s note in the front of the ARC: “… It took me until my mid-twenties to wonder why the important characters in books were always white and why readers were expected to be familiar with pixies and brownies, but not with apsaras or yakshas.” I am more than willing to put in the work to learn about different cultures, and strongly believe that readers—particularly actual YAs—should be provided with these stories, even if they’re unfamiliar. White should never be the default, and I’m proud to see that the YA publishing world is finally (maybe) getting this message.

Bonus Factor: Ode to Stardust

Tristian and Yvaine from the movie Stardust.

You might have thought while reading this review that there’s something familiar about the story. Thakrar was inspired by the Neil Gaiman book, Stardust, but she makes the idea of a star person all her own.

(Yes, I know this image is from the movie. But book covers are hard to crop into squares. And Charlie Cox.)

Factor: Family

kumail nanjiani and his family at a dinner table during a scene from The Big Sick

Sheetal’s maternal family—the stars—are … interesting. They’re royalty, basically, and one step down from gods, which brings with it a level of baggage that Sheetal was not ready to have to unpack. They’re also out for personal gain and aren’t against using Sheetal for that. But they also love her and want to support her, which causes Sheetal a lot of confusion as she tries to sort out her place amongst them.

On the flip side, Sheetal’s paternal family are equally meddling, but in a well-meaning way. They’re not royals, but they’re Desi, which means a similarly daunting set of “rules” for Sheetal to navigate.

Relationship Status: Support System

I’m really excited about you, Book, and am glad we took the time to get together. I see you going places, maybe leaving me behind, and I’m honestly OK with that. You deserve to take flight and shine!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Star Daughter is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.