Throughout June, GeekMom has been celebrating Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links.
The Gravity of Us is a YA novel set in the not-too-distant future when NASA is on the verge of launching the first manned mission to Mars. Calvin Lewis Jr. is a 17-year-old boy living in Brooklyn in the apartment above his best friend Deb. An avid planner, Cal has precisely mapped out his life for the next few years with the end goal of becoming a professional journalist. He has already converted his existing online fame on the popular video streaming platform FlashFame into an upcoming highly sought-after internship at BuzzFeed, and he has started a list of college applications for where he plans to move to with Deb.
All that planning is thrown a curveball, however, when his father – a commercial pilot – secures the final place among the Orpheus 20, a batch of new astronaut recruits who will be part of the Orpheus missions to Mars. Cal and his family are immediately uprooted and moved to Clear Lake, Texas, to live in a retro ’60s-themed community with the other astronaut families as NASA attempts to recreate the golden age of the space program in hopes of maintaining public interest (and funding) for the program. Worse, media coverage of the program, the families, and their lives, is controlled by StarWatch, a TV show more interested in showcasing drama than covering any of the real science going on, and they’ve told Cal he can’t continue his FlashFame channel. His carefully planned future appears to be crumbling away in a matter of days.
An indignant Cal decides that he won’t be controlled and continues his channel anyway, despite increasingly serious official warnings. Even better, he meets the adorably handsome Leon Tucker and his sister Kat – the teenage kids of another astronaut in the Orpheus program. Cal and Leon immediately hit it off, despite Leon’s depression and Cal’s increasing anxiety at having his future plans wiped away. As StarWatch becomes ever more manipulative, Cal decides to take matters into his own hands and prevent StarWatch from ruining his burgeoning relationship with Leon and even the future of the Orpheus missions.
I held The Gravity of Us for the final installment of our Pride Month series because I wanted to save the best for last. I absolutely fell in love with this book and am already hoping for a sequel. Cal is an instantly likable character despite his flaws and I found myself rooting for him from the get-go. I understood his frustration and anxiety at being ripped away from his life and his future because of his father, who initially doesn’t understand why his family is so resistant to him following his dream. There’s some fantastic character development within Cal’s family as all three of them begin to understand one another’s perspective about this new life they are living.
Another thing I loved was how much science content there was. This is no The Martian, but the book doesn’t shy away from talking about the mission Cal’s dad is working toward and Cal’s increasing interest in it. This, coupled with Cal’s desire to showcase the science side of NASA over the drama favored by StarWatch, makes this a genuinely interesting book. I was – like Cal’s dad – born in the ’80s so I missed out on the excitement of the Apollo program where the whole country came together to follow the missions. The Gravity of Us made me feel incredibly excited at the prospect of that happening again in my lifetime, with a potential real-life manned mission to Mars on the horizon.
The relationship between Cal and Leon does smack of instalove, but the characters are well-written enough that I was able to overlook it. There were also more than a few eye-rolling moments in the overall plot, particularly toward the end, but again I was enjoying the story enough to simply roll with it. StarWatch makes for an interesting antagonist although there were a few moments where I thought the story was hinting at their actions being even more heinous than they were, only for that trail to go nowhere. As awful as it would have been, I feel like that version of the story could have been even more exciting and certainly more dramatic.
The Gravity of Us has been one of my favorite books of the year so far and I devoured it in just two sittings. It is both a cute, LGBTQ love story and an enjoyable YA drama that dips a toe into science fiction. Because of that, I imagine it could find wide-ranging appeal and I would recommend it to anyone with a love of space travel and/or contemporary romance.
If you’re interested in more Mars content, GeekMom will be running Mars Month throughout July to celebrate the imminent launch of the Perseverance rover so please keep checking back for more.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.