20 November 2015

Orbiting Jupiter

Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Though this book is classified as young adult at my local library, I have a hard time labeling it in that category.  Yes, it deals with some grown up issues - implied sex (the main character has a kid) and implied rape (he freaks out whenever someone comes up behind him after his time at the juvie boy's hall).  But it also revolves around a twelve-year-old and a fourteen-year-old.  And with Jack, the twelve-year-old, as our narrator the novel definitely feels like a middle grade narrative.

Though the story is charming and also sad, it is so short and progresses so quickly that while you can emphasize for the characters, you don't really have time to connect with them.  For example, that "thing" that happens at the end of the novel.  That thing that shocked me and should have had me bawling into a gallon of ice cream? Well, that whole thing occurs in the span of about four pages.  And then it is simply over!  I am flabbergasted with how quickly Schmidt just throws that at the readers and keeps on trucking.  It should have had me sobbing, and instead I read through it without much emotion at all except surprise.

To make this a great young adult novel, Schmidt needs to flush out the story and the characters.  He needs to make readers connect with the characters and give them time to explore their own development, instead of glossing over large gaps of times with a simple sentence or two.  The novel is in a weird situation where the subject material is probably too serious for a middle grade story, but the writing is too poor to really entice an older audience.

Also, the cover doesn't make a whole lot of sense (unless it is another metaphor for "orbiting" Jupiter.  And I do like the metaphor of Jupiter in this novel.  That is really well done).  The only reason I don't suggest skipping this novel entirely is that it only takes about an hour and a half to two hours to read since it is so ridiculously short.

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