Year of Publication: 2017
Genre: Science Fiction (Middle Grade)
Format (How I Read It): Hardcover
From the author of The Many Worlds of Albie Bright comes another cutting-edge cosmic space adventure for anyone who’s ever looked up at the stars and wondered about the universe. An exploration of the constellations, an appreciation of the courage of astronauts, and a loving father-son story. Perfect for fans of Scott Kelly’s Astrotwins series.
How amazing would it be to have a dad who’s an astronaut? To see him go on rocket launches, live in zero gravity, and fly through space like a superhero? Jamie Drake knows. His dad is orbiting Earth in the International Space Station. Jamie thinks it’s cool, and he’s proud of his dad, but he also really misses him. Hanging out at the local observatory one day, Jamie is surprised when he picks up a strange signal on his phone. Could it be aliens? Are they closer to our planet than anyone realizes? With his dad in space, Jamie feels he has no choice but to investigate on his own. But when something goes wrong with his dad’s mission, Jamie is reminded that space is a dangerous place. He decides it’s time to prove that he’s a hero too.
Themes: Family. Divorce. Science. Aliens.
Character Development: The issues that the main character, Jamie Drake, goes through are mostly realistic (with the exception of his encounter with an alien lifeform). His dad is absent (in space), which puts a strain on his family. He lives with a younger sibling, his mom, and his grandpa (and this often causes friction in the household as well). When he finds out his parents are separating, his reaction feels raw and realistic. I appreciate what he learns about family and how all types of families are valid even if it’s not what he had imagined, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around the alien part of this book.
Plot/Pacing: The pacing was fine. Short chapters kept the story moving, but I didn’t always feel super engaged with what was happening. While I appreciated that this was a very unique take on an alien story, I honestly felt kind of confused by it a lot of the time, which made it difficult to connect with the plot.
Writing Style: I liked the math, science, and space references throughout! They were included naturally which can be difficult to do with science fiction.
Emotional Investment: Low.
Windows and Mirrors: Divorce. Living with non-immediate family members. Space travel? Aliens?
Overall Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book, but it was just kind of meh for me. It wasn’t bad by any means, but not very memorable. One thing that bothered me was that there was a character who was in Jamie’s class, and she was known for being kind of strange (and Jamie definitely thought she was strange). I thought she would play a more important role once Jamie was convinced he had made contact with aliens (something that would definitely seem strange/crazy to his other peers), but she just… didn’t. She didn’t really have any role other than being that weird kid in his class. We learn a tiny bit more about her background, and Jamie discovers they have more in common than he initially thought, but her inclusion in the plot ended up being entirely unnecessary. I also really didn’t like the ending. It happened so fast and just didn’t really make sense.
Recommendation: I read this initially because I wanted to find a good science fiction read-aloud, but I just don’t think it would be the right fit for it. First, I wasn’t expecting divorce to be such a central part of the plot, and I think that would be triggering for many students (especially in a communal read-aloud setting). Also, I just found the alien part of the story to be really difficult to follow, and this would be exacerbated when read aloud. Therefore, while maybe not the best choice for a read-aloud (though it would depend on the class!), I would still recommend this for any young readers interested in science, space, and/or aliens!
Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!