REVIEW: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

The official description: 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. (GoodReads.com)

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.

My thoughts bit: This is a sweet story about Teens falling in love, making mistakes and figuring shit out. One of the things that makes this book so great, is that Stamper has such a great grasp on the age of social media (for lack of a better way to put it).

Cal is living in NY when the book begins. He’s rockin’ the social media world with his guerilla journalism and planning his future. I love that Cal is a planner! Then everything changes when his Dad is accepted into the Astronaut program and the entire family is uprooted and moved in a weekend. A move to Texas means leaving his best friend, Deb and his newly acquired internship at Buzzfeed.

When Cal meets one of the other astrokids, Leon … things change. The two connect immediately and it’s not long before Leon reveals that he’s dealing with depression. One of the things I loved about this story was the way that Stamper lets Leon explain his depression. He’s clear that he doesn’t need to “be fixed” and Cal immediately begins the journey of learning how to meet Leon where he’s at rather than trying to fix things.

The relationship between Leon and Cal isn’t without its speed bumps, but it’s sweet and hopeful and I enjoyed it immensely. As much as Cal enjoys being in front of the lens, Leon is stifled by it and there is a lot of push and pull as these two try to find the sweet spot where they can both be happy being themselves.

Cal also becomes bogged down in the world of being onscreen on a reality show. As he navigates the complex road of blossoming celebrity, he gets caught in traps, sideswiped and is left wondering if everything will crumble around him. But, Cal has heart and determination and the courage to keep trying to do what’s right and hope for change. That is a message we can all use in this day and age.

This book is for people whose heart and imagination are big enough that they are still trying to change the world. You don’t have to be in NASA to reach for the stars. Stamper handles this young relationship with care and humor and it’s a joy to have read about it.

The warnings bit: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: descriptions of anxiety and depression, death of a minor character, under-legal-age drinking,

If/Then: If you liked these books, you will probably enjoy this one!

I received an ARC of The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper from Bloomsbury YA via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased review.

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