As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.
Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels–fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.
Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.
*I received a free advanced reader’s copy of this book from Bloomsbury YA at BookCon. This did not influence my review of this book in anyway. This is an honest review of the novel as I saw it. This novel will be released on March 17, 2020.*
I honestly don’t even remember how this ARC ended up in my hands at BookCon but I’m glad it did. I was aware of Phil Stamper because of the whole Handbook for Mortals scandal but I didn’t know him for his writing. Turns out that’s probably because The Gravity of Us is his debut novel, and what a great book to jumpstart a career.
First, I truly wanted this book just based on the cover alone, but then I read the synopsis. The story follows Cal, a teen journalist/vlogger who’s father just got accepted to join NASA’s very highly publicized trip to Mars. This in it of itself would’ve been interesting but Stamper heightened the stakes by adding in StarWatch. What is StarWatch? I’m so glad you asked. It’s a reality show all about the astronauts and their families, including the kids who are known as Astrokids.
Because of the show, the astronauts and their families are celebs, which is cool except Cal doesn’t think his family is fit to be in the spotlight. Oh, and also, because of the show he won’t be able to do his internship with BuzzFeed like he planned. He’s also not supposed to continue his vlogs, but Cal decides that he won’t let StarWatch halt his career just as it’s about to take off (pun intended) and so he continues with his vlog anyways.
There’s just one (or two) problems. The more time he spends with NASA and the crew of StarWatch the more unsavory things Cal uncovers. And while he knows sharing this story would be great for his career the truth about StarWatch could hurt a lot of people, including Leon, another Astrokid who Cal has feelings for. In other words, things are pretty complicated and I loved it.
I’m not a big science person but Stamper did a great job of making all the space stuff interesting. Honestly, I found some of those points even more interesting than the drama with StarWatch, though the drama was quite good. Stamper definitely surprised me with the plot of this story. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but I love when I can’t predict the ending of a book and this story definitely kept me on my toes.
The surprising elements of the story could probably be contributed to how much was going on in this novel. Cal’s parents are going through a tough time in their marriage; when Cal leaves New York he has to leave his best friend/ex-girlfriend behind; Leon is dealing with depression; and there’s the StarWatch drama mixed in with the actual problems NASA is facing as they try to finally get to Mars. There was a lot happening in this book and yet I never felt lost or like it was too much.
And at the heart of this story was romance but also a lot of familial love as well. Though there were definitely some not so happy moments, overall I’d say this was a feel good read that made me smile and laugh and ultimately fall in love space and all the people working to get us there. Stamper also did a great job of handling Leon and Cal’s mom’s mental health. Honestly, I think my only complaint is that I would’ve liked a smidge more of the romance, but I always want a smidge more romance so I don’t fault this book too much for that.
If you haven’t already pre-ordered The Gravity of Us I highly recommend doing so. Besides this just being an awesome book, Stamper is hosting an epic pre-order campaign where you can get a signed book plate that’s been to space! How brilliant is that? Get yours before it’s too late and if you’ve been luck enough to already read The Gravity of Us let me know your thoughts below!
Highlight here (depression, anxiety, untimely death) for trigger warnings.
Borrow or Buy: Buy it, obviously!