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.
Title : The Gravity of Us
Author : Phil Stamper
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : LGBTQIA+ YA romance/contemporary
Publisher : Bloomsbury YA
Release Date : February 4, 2020/May 14, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ / ★ ★
Hollis’ 2 star review
I wish I could say this was everything sweet and lovely and as interesting that I hoped it would be.. but it wasn’t.
This is a story about a space mission, social media, and first love. But the space mission never really felt real until near the end, there was so much streaming or reality tv that I felt like shaking my fist and yelling at kids to get off my non-existent lawn, and the first love was hella insta-love-y and took off at the speed of light.
Additionally this ARC was brutally formatted and the little chapter break sessions with the company running the reality tv show were unreadable. So if there was an added element that might’ve explained something.. I missed it. It was just not comprehensible and my brain bled trying to make sense of it.
That said, there is a dramatic element that results in a cool viral campaign to save NASA and I did like how that was done. It gave me the feelings of watching similar movements unfold on twitter and all the traction it gets and all the positive and, unfortunately rare, good things that happen as a result. But it was pretty late in the game to redeem the story on a whole, or even the characters — the one who spearheads the videos is the MC who is, almost in every other situation, a grade A knob.
But maybe this isn’t as bad as it seemed to me. Maybe some of my technical issues contributed to what should’ve been only minor disappointments. But I didn’t enjoy the writing or the characters and any of the good, the diversity and the mental health rep, it was all overshadowed by the unbelievable romance, the self-centered MC, and the boring everything else.
Sadly this debut didn’t wow me and I probably wouldn’t pick up anything by the author again. But I’m glad we’re getting more queer stories (particularly #ownvoices ones) and the effort was made to be inclusive, so, that is why I’ve rounded up just enough to not drop this into one-star territory.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Micky’s 2 star review
Gutted is how I feel if I compare my excitement at the beginning and my feelings over this by the end. I feel like THE GRAVITY OF US had all the potential but none of the execution. I couldn’t have been more excited for this context of two NASA teens finding a connection, I couldn’t have felt more let down by the characterisation and plot lines, sadly.
What didn’t work then, you might ask? The protagonist Cal didn’t work for me at all. I was actually invested for the first 25% of this book, overlooking some of the egocentric side of Cal but this all fell flat once the family had moved to Texas. Cal’s character was a lot to handle, the ego, the selfishness; he was bold to the point of being obnoxious to me.
Sadly the story went down the route of insta-touchiness, insta-feelings and insta-love with none of the narrative to make this even slightly tangible. Added to this, I found the handling of mental health issues to be problematic. Depression and anxiety were factors for some of the characters and the lack of time to work on these topics within the story really let that representation down.
I don’t want to flog this horse any more, it’s a painful review to write when I wanted this to be such a different experience. I guess it could work for readers if they are happy to read at the surface only, but really I’m only guessing.
Thank you to Bloomsbury YA for the early review copy.