Rating: Unrated | Bloomsbury YA | Contemporary YA | Release Date: 02/04/20
I feel like there is a generation of teens from upper-middle-class families growing up in trendy artsy gentrified neighborhoods who, like all teens, have issues but are privileged enough to know how to ask for help and can easily find it. I feel like this is a book for these kinds of teens– and I think without this understanding this book can come off as a bit insufferable.
Brooklyn bred Cal Lewis Jr. has found a niche for himself as a reporter on the social media app Flash Fame (Think Periscope meets TikTok). He’s covered local news, elections, and America’s newest obsession —NASA’s manned mission to Mars. The last thing Cal expects is for his dad to be chosen to join the mission. Its good-bye, Brooklyn! Howdy, Texas! As this reporter becomes a part of the story.
Now in the spotlight, Cal himself at odds with Shooting Stars, the manipulative reality show filming the astronauts and dives into a complicated romance with the son of the star astronauts.
Stamper imagines (or should I say reimagines) a world where the NASA-craze of the 1960s find a resurgence in 2020 (*sigh* I wrote this review in February) giving this contemporary YA a dash of sci-fi and speculative fiction.
The teen characters were well written and I found Cal’s earnestness refreshing. With that said I mentioned privilege in the top of this review because a lot of Cal’s problems seem small in the scheme of other things happening in the book. For example, his big concern is that the public will realize his family isn’t perfect; that his dad is only a commercial pilot with a master’s degree, that his parents fight sometimes or that his coder mom has anxiety that she’s learned how to manage —which seem like small problems; especially when his best friend’s family is struggling to make rent.
I will say, as someone who has a slightly-outdated-never-used journalism degree I kind of cringed at how the lines between journalism and public relations were blurred. Cal wants to be a journalist, but when NASA offers him the opportunity to produce content for them he jumps at the chance as if could help his journalism career and I’m like…if you are creating content for an organization that is public relations. Generally, people don’t go from PR to journalism. I would even argue we don’t see a lot of journalism from Cal, because even when he decides to report on what life is like for the astronauts he is biased because he is involved.
Nitpick aside, Phil Stamper’s debut is a genre-defying story about the power of social media and the need for exploration,
I really wonder how this book will read to teens who are growing up in a time where people are not as moved by NASA and space. Like is Space Camp still a thing with the Gen Z ?