The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
“At home, I’m invisible. At school, I’m bizarre. But to the rest of the world, I’m a journalist.”
Breaking the mold of my last two reviews, we move out of the fantasy sphere into regular YA contemporary fiction. Although you could perhaps argue a sci-fi bent, considering the main plot revolves around putting humans on Mars in 2020, which obviously hasn’t happened yet.
Yes, that’s right, The Gravity of Us is set in July of 2020, though a slightly different 2020 than the one we’ve experienced. Books, for any who don’t know, are usually written at least a year in advance of when they are published. Since this book was published in early 2020, I imagine it was written in 2018 or earlier, so it’s no wonder the real 2020 turned out…a little differently.
Though it may not reflect how this year is playing out, I didn’t mind the differences. (It’s fiction, after all.) But speaking of our contemporary world, there are plenty of similarities here. I found the emphasis on technology in the book interesting. Although I’ve read many contemporary books that feature new age technology, this one brought it front and center in a way I hadn’t seen before. Of course, most books don’t feature an MC who’s a famous news vlogger, either.
One of the main subplots in the book was the upheaval of leaving your home and friends to go somewhere new. Having moved away from my home only a year before I read The Gravity of Us, I found myself identifying a lot with those parts of the book. Cal’s struggle to find his balance in a new environment, the family fights about moving, trying to stay connected to old friends when you live thousands of miles way, were all things I recognized and related to.
As I’ve mentioned before, I consume most books through listening to the audio versions. While not directly related to the plot or story in general, the narration can make or break a book for me. Most books I’ve come across have a single narrator who uses their voice acting skills to bring the story and characters to life. Perhaps because I’ve had more exposure to it, I find I often prefer single-narrator books, as opposed to the cast of narrators sometimes employed. This book, however, was fantastically well done. Its cast of narrators worked so well together I’d actually forgotten it had a cast until I relistened to some of it.
Being a die-hard fantasy fanatic, I’ve found a fair number of realistic fiction books come off as rather, well, bland. The Gravity of Us was no such book. It did a stellar job keeping my attention, and had more than one rather suspenseful scene (always useful for keeping a reader hooked). Not only was it entertaining, I learned a lot about the history of the space race and space travel in general while reading. It’s easily one of my favorite books of this year, and I’ll be interested to see what Phil Stamper writes next. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️