Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt
|Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt|
|Reviewer: Stephen Leach|
|Summary: A moving and emotional novella suited for teenage readers.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: December 2015|
|Publisher: Andersen Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Longlisted for the 2017 CILIP Carnegie Medal
Orbiting Jupiter will wring every ounce of feeling it can from you, by hook or by crook. And you won't have any say in the matter. Pick this one up at your peril!
Twelve year-old Jack is informed that his parents will be fostering another boy – fourteen year-old Joseph. But Joseph isn't like most fourteen year-olds. He's troubled: the rumour is that he spent time in juvenile incarceration for trying to kill his teacher. And there's something else about Joseph, too: he has a daughter.
Predictably, a lot of people judge Joseph even before they meet him. Jack narrates as Joseph slowly becomes a part of his life, and little by little we get to know him better. Soon enough, we see what led him to where he has ended up, while also touching on the way in which he has been badly treated by the system. Some of it is skipped over or left slightly ambiguous, but you can fill in the blanks yourself if you have to – what matters is the present, and what happens next.
It's a sad story, told in a slow, beautiful style. But the underlying feeling is one of hope: there's a real sense that Joseph has the chance to move forward and change his life for the better. We see from his interactions at school that he really is a smart kid, with the potential to do well. What stands out more than anything else, however, is the love that Joseph has for Jupiter, the daughter he has never even met, and his desperation to be with her. Real-life stories of situations like this often paint boys like Joseph as the villain, but that's refreshingly not the case here. What stuck out to me most was the way Schmidt makes him feel authentically fourteen years old: not a scared child, but not a self-assured adult either, instead something stuck awkwardly between the two.
This a short book, with a sparse cast of characters, and Joseph is the only one we get to know well. Comparatively, not even Jack gets much focus. But that's the beauty of the book in a way – it's very much a character piece, and having Jack as the narrator is key to how well this works. There is very little melodrama or angst; instead, Schmidt's writing is quiet and contemplative, drawing you slowly into the story. It worked for me. I was hooked from the first page, and the final two chapters left me feeling winded.
Don't let the young-adult billing put you off this one. There's more than enough here for adults to enjoy, too. Orbiting Jupiter is a shining example of where YA fiction can succeed, and it does so magnificently.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If you enjoyed this book, you might also like Diary of the Fall by Michael Laub. Alternatively, if you're in the mood for further YA fiction with a strong emotional arc, a good place to start might be Paper Towns by John Green.
You can read more book reviews or buy Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt at Amazon.com.
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