Published by Bloomsbury on May 17, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
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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.
The Gravity of Us tries to pack quite a punch in 300 pages, with space/science, journalism, mental health and coming of age all being key themes in this book. It has an interesting plot that alternates between being fluffy and serious and a diverse cast of characters. Although the story was entertaining, I thought most of the characters were a bit bland and I wasn’t really invested in everything that was unfolding.
The novel follows main character, Cal, who finds his whole life uprooted after his father is essentially shortlisted to be part of NASA’s first human mission to Mars. His whole family is required to move from their home in Brooklyn to Houston where all of the other astronaut families live. On top of that, they’re required to be part of a reality TV show that focuses on the selection of the final team that gets to go to Mars. For Cal, who runs a successful ‘FlashFame’ account reporting on news around Brooklyn, this means losing a coveted internship with Buzzfeed and potentially having to give up his FlashFame. However, once in Houston, Cal discovers love and that Houston might be as much of a home to him as Brooklyn was.
I really did enjoy all of the mentions of space and NASA and loved how the story unfolded with the mission (despite some of the things that happened). But I had a hard time connecting with Cal’s mission of self-discovery. I did really like his character but I think the book needed to be another 100 pages longer for it to not feel like I was just being told what the key messages were. It was great to see his passion in journalism, especially the way that it contrasted with how reality TV was presented in the book. However, beyond that, I wasn’t really engaged in what was happening with Cal’s life and his struggle to figure out whether he belonged in Houston.
I also had a problem with most of the side characters. We don’t really get to know anything about them beyond surface level likes and dislikes. For example, we know that Leon, the love interest, likes gymnastics and has depression, and his sister Katherine wants to be a coder. I enjoyed reading about Cal’s parents and I thought that the novel explored Cal’s father’s feelings of being in Cal’s shadow quite well. I also thought that Cal’s mother’s anxiety was treated in a really sensitive way. Despite this, we don’t really know anything about these characters and most of the other characters in the book received the same treatment. Leon, in particular, fell flat for me and is probably one of the least interesting love interests I’ve read about for a while. I wasn’t invested in the romance at all and I just felt like it got in the way of other things that could have been explored in greater detail. It didn’t help that the insta-love kind of put me off the book – there was no set-up to the romance and no chemistry between Cal and Leon.
I liked the idea of The Gravity of Us more than I actually enjoyed the novel. Having said that, it was a quite and enjoyable read and will have you thinking that space travel and science are really cool.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for providing a review copy.
The Gravity of Us is available at all Australian retailers for $15.99 RRP.
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