Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Review: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Spoilers below, proceed with caution.
Thanks to Netglley for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: 17th May 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 313

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.

This book had all the marks of a read that I was going to adore, but sadly ‘The Gravity of Us’ just didn’t pull me in. Part of this was due to not really connecting with Cal, as he often came across as completely selfish and didn’t give any consideration to what was going on with those around him. But the majority of this was due to slightly dubious  issues of consent running throughout.

There are two big instances of this, and they completely marred my enjoyment of the rest of the novel. Firstly, when Cal knows there are cameras on himself and Leon, and that Leon isn’t out, yet chooses to take Leon’s hand and have an intimate moment with him that he knows is being filmed and will eventually be broadcast. Leon is unaware of what’s happening, and only finds out when the footage is released. There’s a brief moment where Leon is horrified about what has happened and the knowledge  that Cal knew and acted with intent, but then it’s completely forgotten about and never discussed or resolved.
The second instance is the entire relationship between Cal’s parents. Cal’s father applies for the space programme without talking to his wife about it at any point. He then uproots the entire family and completely disregards his wife’s anxiety and wishes. Now maybe these are dealt with in conversations that Cal isn’t privy too, but it doesn’t seem like it, and the entire portrayal left me with a bad aftertaste.

The idea is intriguing, but it never really flies. I wanted to like it so much, but ultimately I just felt frustrated and disheartened by the issues I’ve outlined above, and they coloured my overall enjoyment of the book.

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