Published by Dial Books on February 28th 2017
Genres: middle grade, contemporary
Buy on Amazon
A space-obsessed boy and his dog, Carl Sagan, take a journey toward family, love, hope, and awe in this funny and moving novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Walk Two Moons.
11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.
It’s not often that I read contemporary middle grade books. Like seriously, I read one a year, maybe? I generally stick to fantasy. So when See You in the Cosmos showed up at my door, I had a hard time remembering why I requested it. The blurb didn’t speak to me like blurbs of books I usually read do (I am a huge blurb reader), but I knew I would try to read it because I am really trying to get through my ARCs this year (I’m already struggling). I’m actually glad I did though, because this was a great book. Fantastic, really.
The book has a really fantastic voice, and a quirky execution that really works. Alex, the protagonist, makes recordings on his Golden iPod, and transcripts of this audio are what make up the narrative of See You in the Cosmos. Alex is making an updated version of the Golden Record that Carl Sagan sent into space. So the audio recordings Alex makes are actually meant for intelligent life somewhere out there in space, and he’s hoping to shoot his iPod up into space on the rocket he made that he will be launching at SHARF. So as I’m reading this book I am keeping in mind that’s it’s not actually written for me, and it was an interesting feeling I’ve not yet experienced.
There’s obviously something wrong with Alex’s mother because she lets an eleven-year-old boy go off on his own from Colorado to New Mexico where SHARF is being held. But that’s part of the plot and something you learn later, so you kind of just have to roll with the idea of this kid going off on his own, and it was hard at first, but then Alex meets a lot of really cool people along the way who start to take care of him, and that’s when the book got really interesting for me. There is Zed, who wears monk’s robes and meditates all the time and he’s bald but I’m not sure if he’s an actual monk because it’s never officially stated. Then there is Zed’s roommate Steve who is a little harder to pin down. I liked him at first, but then he does something later on in the novel that has me questioning his character, and even when he redeems himself later on I’m still really not sure.
Aside from the SHARF gathering, Alex wants to go off on a quest to find his father whose last known location is in Las Vegas. Alex’s father supposedly died when he was three, but Alex receives an email alert from Ancestry.com that leads him to believe his father may still be alive. It just so happens that Zed and Steve are headed to Vegas too, so that becomes like the second leg of this road trip. And that’s where I will stop telling you about the plot because it gets into spoiler territory and there are some things that should be left unsaid.
What I really want to say about See You in the Cosmos is this: this is a very voicey novel. Whether you like this book or not all hinges on how you feel about Alex’s voice. I really liked the novel, but there were moments when Alex’s voice was a little too much for me. This book reads as if it is truly written from a child’s perspective, and it comes off very authentic, but that can also be a double-edged sword, because as someone who is dedicated to grammar and sentence structure, Alex’s run-on sentences drove me batty. Sometimes it just got to be too much for me. Notice I still rated the book four stars. And that’s because I realize this is a very personal thing, and I was still objectively able to take myself out of the equation and realize that this is a fantastic novel. I’m sure there’s a pretty good chance that this one will be nominated for some awards, and I believe it should be.