Life is pretty good for Brooklyn teen Cal; he has an impressive follower count on the FlashFame app and he’s about to start an internship at BuzzFeed. But then Cal’s father announces that he has been selected for NASA’s upcoming mission to Mars, and the whole family is moving to Houston.
Cal thinks this is terrible: not only is his NY-based internship delayed indefinitely, but then he learns that he can’t even parlay his streaming journalism into providing content for his father’s new opportunity because StarWatch, a reality television production company has exclusive rights and they’re filming everything for their Shooting Stars show.
And then he gets to Houston and moves into a planned neighborhood full of 1960s nostalgia meant to imitate what life was like for astronaut families during the original space race. It’s almost too much for Cal to deal with, but then he meets Leon, who is cute and charming and likes Cal as much as Cal likes him. This might be the one bright spot in the dreadful media circus that Cal’s life has turned into.
This book is so much more than a space themed Young Adult romance; it’s also biting social commentary on the state of media in society, as well as its need to be the first to get the breaking story. I don’t want to go on too much of a tangent, but we just saw this happen with the death of Kobe Bryant. As the news broke, there was frenzied speculation to be the first to report who was in the helicopter with him, and the result was a great deal of misinformation. The bigger picture here is that reality television and the 24/7 newscycle make people feel as though they are entitled to know everything about celebrity’s private lives.
Stamper reflects this mindset in a horrific scene in which StarWatch not only asks a character for a reaction after a tragedy, but wants them to recreate a moment to make it look more dramatic for the broadcast.
I don’t want to imply that this book is only serious; even though the word gravity is literally in the title, there are plenty of lighter moments. Cal is a delightful protagonist with a wry sense of humor, and he presents a balanced outlook on his strange new life. Also, I have to say that as a 90s kid, I especially enjoyed Cal’s collection of cassette tapes.
I would recommend The Gravity of Us. I want to go back to what I was saying about YA romance. It’s a common theme in the genre; I’ve already discussed the ways in which The Gravity of Us transcends beyond the trope, but I do want to acknowledge its status as a YA romance because everybody deserves to have their story told, and readers should be able to read stories with characters who are just like them. This was such a lovely book, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Stamper in the future.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.