For What It's Worth

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Review: The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper


As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.


Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch. ~
Goodreads

Source: ARC provided by Bloomsbury YA in exchange for an honest review

Review: Cal is a successful teen social media journalist – covering the streets of NYC and breaking news on his FlashFame channel. He’s been offered an internship to Buzzfeed and has his whole path to becoming a professional journalist meticulously planned out as well as moving in with his best friend, Deb. But when his pilot father gets chosen by NASA to train and compete for a spot on the Orpheus V spacecraft and it’s first manned mission to Mars – his whole life is upturned.

Not only does Cal’s family need to move from NYC to Texas, right away, but the whole thing is covered by a reality show called Shooting Stars that likes to amplify the drama and competition aspect of things. Cal’s mom suffers from anxiety so having the media track every move of their imperfect family is difficult. Then Cal’s internship is canceled, and because of a contract clause, he is no longer allowed to post on his channel anymore.

His first few days in Houston are filled with tension between his parents and anger at his father combined with having to fake it for the cameras. Shooting Stars has an inordinate amount of power over the candidate astronauts and their families. The show is used to keep NASA and it’s projects in the public eye and popular - and therefore secure funding. Cal discovers how manipulative the host is and what he’s willing to do to keep his ratings high and retain power over NASA and the process.

So Cal goes rogue and still broadcasts out on his channel in an act of defiance. He gets support from his neighboring “astrokids” Kat and her brother Leon, who Cal develops an instant attraction to. There is a bit of "insta" everything going on but I could see how easily Leon and Cal connected because of their circumstances.

I was expecting more of a government cover up type of plot based on the summary but this is much more of a commentary on social media, depression/anxiety and relationships - although the space mission does figure prominently.

This is also (mostly) a coming of age story for Cal. Between trying to be the peacemaker for his quarreling parents, exploring his sexuality, falling in love and trying to chase his journalism dreams - he screws up and often. He seems to have boundless patience for Leon and his depression and sympathy for his mother's anxiety but is often selfish in regards to his best friend, Deb's, problems. That was a tough one to read because she is always so forgiving and supportive with him.

Stamper touches on a lot of things and is very respectful of those issues but doesn't dig overly deep either. That's not a complaint - I think there is room for stories that represent real, messy life and have positive outcomes - that are also lighter reads that offer hope and ways out.

The Gravity of Us had such a unique but topical setting with characters that I think teens can relate to. Especially in this fame/social media obsessed culture they live in. And kudos for writing parents that were incredibly flawed but layered. Parents are usually thrown in to make the teens life miserable and then tossed but Cal's parents (slowly) come full circle and that was nice to see. And the teens are shown confronting their parents about their challenges and what they need - with parents actually responding in a healthy way.

If you're looking for a low key but relatable read with a unique backdrop give this one a go.

29 comments:

  1. I was interested in this, because space stuff is always a good thing, but I think I would love to see Cal work through all his "stuff" too. I am glad to hear his story has drama, but a positive outcome.

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    1. It was an interesting backdrop because ...space but also had a sense of nostalgia to historic space missions and event he style of the homes they made them live in.

      It's a lot of Cal growing and I like when that happens. Show the flaws but also how to change and do better. It was even better that the adults got this lesson too.

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  2. Sometimes I don't need my YA fiction too delve too deep and get down in the weeds with the issues. Sometimes lighter and hopeful really hits the spot.

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    1. It's kind of nice to have all the issues touched on and dealt with in a respective way but also...read a fun book!

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  3. Not sure it's the right book for me but I'm glad you liked it.

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    1. I know you're not a YA reader but yes, I enjoyed it.

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    1. I'm all over the place lately with reading but I'm finding a lot of great stand alone YA contemporaries.

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  5. Low key but relatable, well that does sound good

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  6. Sounds like a great read---I've been watching for reviews of this one to start rolling in, so I'm glad to see you liked it.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. It was very hyped but I haven't seen many reviews yet. I'm curious what people think because it's unique in a way but also very low key.

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  7. I've been seeing this one all over the internet. I don't generally read YA, but the premise sounds good. However, after reading your review and that the government coverup plot isn't so grand... that's what caught my eye. So maybe I'll pass on this one. Thanks!

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    1. It's more of media manipulation which kind of surprised me based on the summary.

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  8. The whole aspect of space freaks me the crap out. I have an irrational fear of outer space. However, I am curious about this one. I'm glad the parents were portrayed realistically but well, and not just as plot device or totally absent. I find it hilarious that the reality show is Shooting Stars though.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. Ha! I didn't even think of that.

      I would NEVER go to space!!! lol It's very much an earth based story though.

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  9. I'm glad you enjoyed it! Not my thing but I enjoyed your review!

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  10. This sounds really good to me thanks for sharing your review. 👍✨

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    1. It was kind of different so that was nice.

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  11. This is the first review I've seen for this book, and it sounds like something I'd enjoy! Like you said, books don't always have to dive deep into the messy bits to be effective. I prefer less mess, to be honest, because I'm not looking to get overly emotional when I read. I want to relax my brain! Happy this was enjoyable for you, Karen! <3

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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    1. It was such a hyped book so I'm surprised to not see it around the blogoshpere more.

      I'm all about relaxing my brain reading! lol

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  12. I have never heard of this book before. I love that this is a book that the youth can relate to and portrays healthy parents. We need more of that in our books.

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    1. Parents are usually non existent or really awful. There are very flawed parents here but they're called out.

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  13. That this is more a commentary on social media, depression/anxiety and relationships as opposed to a government cover up type of novel is all to the good as far as i'm concerned. Though that said this isn't a book that shouts read me.

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    1. I agree - but it seems a little misleading if that's what you were looking for.

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  14. I'm really eager to read this one too Karen and after reading your review, I'm so keen! I love books with a space theme and there's so few around that aren't fantasy or science fiction reads. Definitely grabbing a copy of this one, wonderful review Karen!

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  15. It's good to know this one is more of a contemporary kind of read than anything else, but it still sounds like something I would be able to enjoy a lot and I might have to pick this one up for myself. It sounds chill and nice.

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  16. From your review I can see this is quite a completely different story than the synopsis led me to believe. Looks interesting - and I love the cover art :-)

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