Themes: Space Exploration, Social Media, Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Released: February 4, 2020
I’m not sure why—perhaps the mention of NASA and Mars in the blurb—but I expected this novel to be a lot more sci-fi than it is. Essentially, it’s a contemporary love story that just so happens to take place amidst preparations for a new space mission, which suited me fine. It’s wonderful when the author’s passion for the subject they’re writing about really shines through, and this is certainly the case here. Phil Stamper clearly possesses an in depth knowledge of the history of space travel, the 1969 Moon Landing in particular, and this book made me consider the event in an entirely new light.
I knew, of course, that there was a great deal of excitement surrounding the Moon Landing, and that the three astronauts were inundated with requests for interviews upon their return. I had no idea, however, that this public interest extended to the astronauts’ families. In The Gravity of Us, the author imagines how much more intrusive this interest would be if NASA were to send a team of astronauts into space today, this time to Mars. How much greater would the hype be in this age of instant news and reality TV, and what kind of pressure would this put on the individuals involved?
I found Cal, the novel’s seventeen-year-old protagonist, to be a breath of fresh air. Unlike so many teenagers, who are crippled with insecurity and awkwardness, Cal’s growing online fame as a social media journalist gives him a confidence beyond his years. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have his own issues to work through. Cal’s somewhat of a control freak and likes to have his future planned out. He takes it upon himself to help those he cares about, but during the narrative he comes to learn that sometimes people need to work through their problems by themselves and at their own pace.
As someone who suffers from Depression, I believe it’s so important to explore mental illness in fiction, especially that written for young adults. Leon, Cal’s love interest, appears at first to be laidback and enigmatic and the attraction between the two boys is instant. Yet, the more Cal gets to know him, the more it becomes apparent that the stress of professional gymnastics combined with the constant media attention has left Leon struggling to cope. Cal’s instinct is to try and fix him, but if their relationship is to stand a chance, he’ll have to allow Leon the space to forge his own path.
For a highly original premise that taught me so much about space exploration, a hero I completely fell in love with, and a romance that’s as real as it is tender, The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper gets 9/10 rainbows!
About the Book
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.
About Phil Stamper
Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. He has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt. He works for a major book publisher in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. His bestselling novel The Gravity of Us came out in early 2020, and his sophomore novel As Far As You’ll Take Me comes out in early 2021.