The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

“At home, I’m invisible. At school, I’m bizarre. But to the rest of the world I’m a journalist.” This is the opening line of ‘The Gravity of Us’ by Phil Stamper and it had me hooked.

Cal Lewis Jr is a budding journalist, an online sensation with his live news video posts, addicted to listening to music on cassette tapes, best friends with Deb – the girlfriend he had before he realised that he preferred kissing boys and the son of the newest astronaut candidate for the first man mission to Mars.

Now, literally overnight, Cal has to pack up his life in Brooklyn, say goodbye to his Buzzfeed internship, and travel with his family to Texas so his dad can start training.
His bitterness about having to give up his dreams of being a serious journalist for his father’s dreams of being an astronaut is lessened when he meets Leon, the son of another astronaut. Cal and Leon have instant chemistry, but life is never that easy.

It soon becomes clear that the job of the astronauts’ families is to project a 1960’s-style happy family-vibe, to be documented by StarWatch, a reality show that just seems to want to create drama to boost their ratings. “Headphones on, I fix myself so I can go back to fixing the world.” Cal likes to fix things. He likes plans. He likes to be in control. But as Cal and Leon navigate the beginnings of their relationship, StarWatch create conflict, and Cal’s videos continue to go viral, Cal also has to realises that some things he just can’t fix, and that maybe his need for control is just a way to mask his anxiety.

This is a story that deals with so many themes – mental health, friendship, first love, reality television – but I loved how the relationship between Cal and Leon is so natural. The dramas are about learning how to be in a relationship, not the fact that it is two boys building a relationship. The fact that these two teenagers could be in love is just accepted as “normal”, which is not necessarily the case in today’s society – but I so wish it was.

For me personally, mention NASA, astronauts or space travel in a book and it is already a winner for me. I came for the astronauts but stayed for a heartwarming love story about two teenagers who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, but still manage to find themselves and each other.
Read more about the author, Phil Stamper.

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