I just finished reading See You in the Cosmos, by Jack Cheng!
I received this book from the Boekhandel Dominicanen's Young Adult Dome. This does not affect my review!
HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!
"All eleven-year-old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other life forms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like.
But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mom, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.
Where do I come from?
Who's out there?
And, above all,
How can I be brave?
Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down...
This book was absolutely beautiful, in practically every sense of the word! The writing and the plot and the characters and the way little ideas came back just made this book something that was almost comforting to read!
See You in the Cosmos is about 11-year-old Alex, who is a complete astronomy and rocket science nerd, who's goal is to follow in the footsteps of his all-time hero, Carl Sagan, and launch a recording into space for intelligent beings to find. On his golden iPod, he records his everyday life, which is far from ordinary. His mom is suffering from the death of his dad, and thus has many 'quiet days', during which he has to completely be on his own, cook, go to the supermarket, do the laundry etc. His brother lives in LA - several days away, and so he spends his time teaching himself rocket science, looking for his dad's information on genealogy.com, and taking care of everyone. He decides to go to SHARF, a rocket launch contest in the desert, and that sets him on a whole list of meetings and a huge adventure.
Alex is an absolutely amazing character - he was written so well! The whole book is written in the form of recordings, so you read the book in the way he talks. (Please tell me there's an audiobook of this somewhere out there!) This kid is the sweetest, most clueless nerd there is out there - he can tell you anything there is to know about space but gets confused about social norms.
"... and Ken said Sure, knock yourself out, and I said I'm not going to do that because I'm a pacifist and besides, how am I going to check my e-mail if I'm unconscious?" p55
This quote is basically how Alex's mind works throughout the whole novel, and it's so much fun to read! He has the best responses to very simple 'adult' ideas, that to him are totally logical.
The book starts out with him trying to describe the intelligent beings on another planet, and really sets the tone for the whole book, about him trying to figure things out, and people on Earth each being intelligent in their own ways. This comes up a few times. In fact, Cheng is a master of recurring ideas - once Alex learns something - even if it's a tiny little observation or fact, the idea will pop up again from time to time, subtly. Or anytime he meets someone new, there's a little summary of the book that goes through step by step, but that makes total sense to read about in this context. (It would be weird for something like this to happen in, say, Throne of Glass. But here is was perfectly done!)
The side characters were also amazing.
Terra is his half-sister he meets on his adventure to find his maybe-dad, that he heard about on Genealogy.com. She has parent issues and wants to be independent, dropped out of school, but is socially very smart. She understands people in a way the other characters don't and automatically stands for Alex, her half-brother she just met.
Steve is a guy Alex meets at SHARF, and he's a wreck. He's a very smart entrepreneur, but is socially and mentally very, very clumsy, almost to the point of being aggresive. He is supportive in the end but is often the source of arguments.
Zed is some kind of martial arts master that Alex meets on the train and who helps him through his travels. He starts off with this vow of silence, and he's the wise one of the group. He usually comes up with good ideas and bits of wisdom for each of the other characters.
The entire book is a smooth road-trip, with a few bumps along the way, but that generally comes together nicely. It was a beautiful read with the dorkiest character but didn't try to completely hide some social issues. When Terra takes over the recording, or when you can hear other people talking, there is often a more serious conversation going on. The good thing is, even though Alex goes through a lot in this book, nothing can get him down in the end.
OH. He's a science nerd, who loves astronomy and the movie Contact, which is also one of my favorites. Before you go read it, watch Contact, or you'll miss some references! ^^
I already wrote so much about this book and I'm trying not to give too much away! This middle grade / YA book deserves SO much more hype! It's a fast, simple and compulsive read that really got me in a good mood - I almost physically enjoyed reading it in a sense!
I'm giving this a 5/5 feathers - please go read it! It's available everywhere starting today and is so, so worth it!
Have you read See You in the Cosmos? Are you planning to? Please let me know! :D