Gary D. Schmidt is no stranger to success. Since publishing his first novel in 1996 he has been awarded the Newbery Medal twice, firstly for The Wednesday Wars (2007) and then a second time for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2004), which also won the Printz Award. His latest novel is titled Orbiting Jupiter (2015) and it is simply breathtaking. This book has stunned and brought several of my fellow booksellers to tears with its beauty and subject matter. Before I tell you more I just want it on record that the fact this book isn’t up for a Carnegie Medal is a travesty!
‘You know how teachers are. If they get you to take out a book they love too, they’re yours for life.’
The novel is narrated by Jack, a twelve-year-old boy who lives on a farm in Maine with his loving parents, who foster a thirteen year old boy called Joseph. Joseph is a deeply troubled boy who has recently been released from a juvenile facility which has left him scared of human interaction and touch. As the story continues we discover Joseph has a child, a baby named Jupiter, who has been taken from him. We begin to find out more about Joseph’s life, the horrors he’s been through, the love he feels for his baby, and it soon becomes evident that there’s nothing which can stop Joseph from finding Jupiter.
I adore this book. I admire Schmidt for taking the taboo subject of young parents, who are still children themselves and not portraying it as something distasteful. Of course a child becoming pregnant is a serious and often dangerous thing, but it does happen and we should not shy away from the subject. Furthermore, Schmidt shows us that true love is a force which can strike us at any age, at thirteen or at eighty, when we fall in love we want the same thing, to never be apart from that person. Orbiting Jupiter touches upon many other issues such as the importance of our teachers and our schools, the care system and our relationship with our families. I myself took away from this book that we need to give more credit to younger people. We need to trust and believe that how they feel is real, is meaningful, and not dismiss their feelings as anything else due to their age. Joseph is a talented and brilliant young man, but he has been failed by those who were suppose to care for him.
I don’t want to give anything more away, but this is a beautifully crafted book, a real masterclass in storytelling. It will break and fill your heart again and again.
BB Rating: 4.3/5
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