The gravity of us by Phil Stamper

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Bloomsbury, 2020. ISBN: 9781526619945.
Seventeen year old Cal is certain of his path in life, he wants to be a journalist and makes regular online video journals from his Brooklyn home via the 'FlashFame' app. He has gained a substantial following after reporting on elections and has been offered an internship at BuzzFeed News. Home life is often disrupted by his parent's tense relationship and his mother's anxiety so he is shocked when his pilot father announces he has won a place on Orpheus Project, training astronauts for a mission to Mars. The family is required to immediately relocate to Clear Lake Texas and live in a retro styled estate nostalgically modelled on the early Sixties astronaut village. As soon as they arrive they are filmed for the reality show 'Shooting Stars', conceived of to raise awareness about the Orpheus program with the American public to ensure continued funding for the project. Cal retrieves something from the disruption by continuing to post video updates for his half a million followers, interviewing scientists and providing an insight into the background workings of the project rather than seeking out the sensational personal conflicts of the reality show footage. Another plus is that he falls headlong in love with Leon, the son of one of the other astronauts. When a tragedy occurs in the Orpheus project, the 'Shooting Stars' producers try to capitalise on the ensuing grief and suffering, prompting Cal to expose them, highlighting the show's intrusion into their lives.
Working through all the various challenges thrust upon him Cal learns about himself and others, he acknowledges his obsessiveness and need to "fix" things. He learns respect for difference in his relationship with Leon and to try not to depend on others to be happy or sad. He also develops respect for his parents, acknowledging their special skills and abilities. In his personal journey Cal realises his strength in communicating real information honestly to his followers and his continuing success suggests that it is a need felt strongly in today's world.
The first person narration feels authentic as do the social media references. The relationship between the two boys is sensitively portrayed and the brave and intelligent way Cal faces multiple challenges will appeal to senior secondary students. Themes: Mental health, Space, Love, Social media.
Sue Speck