Author: Phil Stamper
Publication date: March 4, 2020
Genre: young adult, contemporary, LGBTQIA+, romance
My rating: 3.5/5 stars
Once again, I’m finding myself in a position where I’m a little too worn out to write full reviews, but I do have thoughts I want to share on books! To that end, I present you with this mini-review of a cute, if not remarkable, queer YA contemporary (with a splash of romance, a ton of commentary on media, and a hefty dose of outer space).
The Plot, in Short:
Cal, high school student and aspiring journalist, is lowkey sort of famous for his news stories on the app FlashFame, covering everything from national news to local hidden gems in his hometown of NYC. That all goes out the window when Cal’s dad is selected as the 20th and final member of NASA’s latest project, Orpheus V, which will be sending a crew to Mars. Just like that, Cal has to uproot his entire life and move to Texas, where he also finds out that making further FlashFame videos might be in violation of his family’s contract for participating in the project.
Everything sort of sucks–the fakeness and forced-drama imposed on the astronauts, the Texas weather, the general missing his best friend Deb–but there are two bright spots in this new adventure. One is Leon, a very, very cute boy and fellow Astrokid. And the other is the realization that the entire project might be hiding a very big story, one that Cal could be the one to break…
– Cute gay romance
– Love the inclusion of social media culture
– Hooray space and astronauts and all that fun stuff
– Leon’s sister Kat is adorable and lovable
– The book doesn’t shy away from issues like mental health (Cal’s mom has severe anxiety, Leon has depression) and poverty (Deb’s family literally makes her use her part-time-job paycheck to help pay the bills)
– The depiction of Leon’s depression was so real
– The general reminder that NASA is about the science, not just the celebrity and drama
– Cal has such a savior complex throughout the book, it kind of drove me nuts. He did improve some, but it felt like he was just patting himself on the back for becoming less of a control freak
– Cal’s blunt repetition of how much he wants to fix things for others even when he can’t was pretty heavy-handed
– The book looks like a romance but reads like more of a story about Cal with a small romantic side plot
– The insta-love. It was so bad, y’all. Don’t get me wrong, I love the central couple, but they kind of immediately fell in love without even really knowing each other.
– Though the mental illness components were represented well, I felt like the way Cal dealt with them was…not great. Kind of condescending at times, and again, his whole savior complex was irritating.
– An ending that felt a little too much like “everything was tied up with a neat bow and they lived happily ever after”
All in all, this is a cute book, don’t get me wrong. It just wasn’t quite as impactful as I had hoped. But if you want something quick and fun for Pride, go right ahead–this is a solid read, even if it is unremarkable.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!