Book Review: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
“I’m so starry-eyed for this wise, romantic gem of a book.” – Becky Albertalli, bestselling author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
In this smart, heart-warming YA debut perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, two teens find love when their lives are uprooted for their parents’ involvement in a NASA mission to Mars.
Cal wants to be a journalist, and he’s already well underway with almost half a million followers on his FlashFame app and an upcoming internship at Buzzfeed. But his plans are derailed when his pilot father is selected for a highly-publicized NASA mission to Mars. Within days, Cal and his parents leave Brooklyn for hot and humid Houston.
With the entire nation desperate for any new information about the astronauts, Cal finds himself thrust in the middle of a media circus. Suddenly his life is more like a reality TV show, with his constantly bickering parents struggling with their roles as the “perfect American family.”
And then Cal meets Leon, whose mother is another astronaut on the mission, and he finds himself falling head over heels—and fast. They become an oasis for each other amid the craziness of this whole experience. As their relationship grows, so does the frenzy surrounding the Mars mission, and when secrets are revealed about ulterior motives of the program, Cal must find a way to get to the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.
“Between the boy in my bed and the peace in the house, maybe this astronaut thing was exactly what our family needed” (200).
Whenever I read, I like to look for the one line that will grab readers’ interest if you hold up the book and quote the line. The above line totally sums up the major plot points: love interest, family disharmony, and the “astronaut thing.” YEP.
Do you need to suspend your disbelief quite a bit to believe that the events of the book would actually play out how they do? Sure. But even realistic fiction is still fiction. Just go with it. So we’re supposed to believe that a mid-range teenage influencer can help snag his dad a job with NASA and possibly save the entire mission. Fine. I’ll buy it—because the rest of the story is fun, cute, charming, and all kinds of other seemingly empty descriptors that just add up to “GOOD.”
There’s a lot to like in this story. Leon, the love interest, and main character Cal’s mom deal with mental health issues (depression and anxiety, respectively). There’s repeated casual mention of this as well as how they cope with and treat it. The celeb news and gossip show that hounds the astronauts and their families and that Cal repeatedly goes up against is satisfyingly terrible and infuriating. They scheme, plot, manipulate, and use people all while accusing Cal of the same. Cal seemed to kind of understand the path his life was likely on—he knew what he wanted to do and where he wanted to do it. But moving to Texas for the space program changed all of that. Though Cal is relatively famous, he’s also just a regular kid making mistakes (he’s a self-centered and crappy friend at times), reevaluating his future, falling in love, screwing it up, and figuring it all out.
We can always use more ownvoices books featuring queer boys, so I’m glad this one exists. Readers looking for a BIG romance may be disappointed, but those looking for a unique story about the curveballs life can throw at you and the unexpected ways you may find love will enjoy this geeky story about dating, friendship, space, and politics.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Age Range: 13 – 17 Years
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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