I was immediately intrigued by The Gravity of Us the moment I saw the gorgeous cover. Then, learning that it was a queer romance by a new author, and on top of that the quote on the cover by Becky Albertalli about it being the “first love, first launch, astronaut story I didn’t know I needed”, this book became my most anticipated reads of 2020. I’m so glad that it didn’t disappoint!
The book does not take place in space as I initially thought, but is a well-grounded, contemporary, YA story following social media-savvy teenager Cal as his life gets turned upside-down. When Cal’s father is unexpectedly chosen for a NASA mission, the whole family suddenly finds themselves moving to a compound for astronauts and getting sucked into a reality show that becomes their lives. At the compund, Cal meets and quickly falls for another astronaut’s son, Leon, at the same time as he struggles with the disappointment of not being able to follow his carefully planned career path, and discovers some ugly truths behind the program that’s brought his family to Houston.
The book started off in a wonderful way in New York, where we got to see Cal’s life with his best friend Deb and his work with the video account and his passion for fact-based journalism. After the move to Texas, I had some issues with Cal and how he acted, especially towards Deb. I really missed her and would have loved for her to get a bigger part of the story, and didn’t like the way Cal ignored her problem after she’d always supported him. The way Cal treated Deb made him come across as self-centered, shallow and less likable, unfortunately. But luckily that, and the selfish way Cal’s dad moved his family across the country only to fulfil his dream, are about all my objections to this book. All in all, it was a really cute and great book, with a fluffy, light-hearted romance at the same time as it managed to deal with some heavy topics like mental health issues such as Leon’s depression and Cal’s mom’s anxiety.
I really enjoyed Cal’s relationship with Leon, although it did seem a little fast and like they ended up falling for each other simply because they were the only teenagers around (except Leon’s sister, who I absolutely adored, by the way!). Leon’s depression was described in such an honest and sensitive way and I really liked that Leon set boundaries and that Cal respected them. It felt very authentic the way Leon couldn’t just be “fixed”. There is no simple solution, and not even love will suddenly make a person “cured” and all happy again. I also liked that Cal questioned his sexuality and how the author provided a bit of backstory on how Cal and Deb used to date, before becoming friends.
There were two parts of the book that I loved absolutely most. The first was the wonderfully geeky NASA stuff, and how the scientists were given a chance to talk about their work and their passion for science. And the second was the humor that made this such a wonderful and light read, despite the heavy topics. Like in this quote by Cal about Leon:
“I also slipped in a Hogwarts House quiz, because when I told him I was Slytherin, he said, and I quote, “That’s the bad one, right?”
It made me laugh out loud (which I very seldom do…)
Overall, this was a truly entertaining and cute read with a new and original story. I loved the idea of combining science with a reality show, first love, complicated family relationships and all the 1960s references and the cassette hunting. I can’t wait to read more books from Phil Stamper!
Find out more about the book and the author here: Phil Stamper