The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Title: The Gravity of Us
Author: Phil Stamper
Publication date: 2020

Date started: 08/06/2020
Date finished: 15/06/2020

Favorite sentence: “If you want to kiss me, kiss me because you like me. Not because you think it will make you happy. You can’t just kiss away all the bad feelings I have. You can’t kiss me and make me better.”

Summary: Cal Lewis is a young student and journalist reporting on local and international news from his FlashFame account, where he has a pretty large following. One subject that he’s only covering reluctantly though, is the Orpheus Project: NASA is hiring astronauts for a future mission on Mars. It’s not that he doesn’t like space exploration, but the subject hits a bit too close to home: his own dad is one of the candidates! Cal thinks that his father has no chance to get in so when he actually gets chosen for the mission, Cal’s world turns upside down abruptly: they have to leave New York for Houston immediately, and Cal has to leave his friends, education and career plans behind. When arriving in the astronaut’s village in Houston, he’s so angry at everything that he breaks the news of his father being chosen through his FlashFame app, even though it’s forbidden because StarWatch, a celebrity channel, has a monopole on the news coming out of the Orpheus Project and all the people involved in it. Journalists rush to their new home and Cal’s father is enraged that the journalists seem more interested in his famous son than in himself – especially as he never took Cal’s reporting seriously. Cal is saved from the journalist by the Tuckers: Grace, the fancy astronaut mother, Leon, her handsome son, and Kat, his fun sister. Cal can’t believe how perfect their family looks, especially when compared to his own constantly fighting parents, but he soon learns that there’s more to them than what they show the cameras. And so Cal’s life amongst the astronauts begins: StarWatch is threatening to sue him as he still updates his news regularly, but on the other hand he doesn’t often updates his best friend Deb directly, which hurts their relationship. Cal also has to navigate around Josh Farrow’s show for StarWatch, Shooting Stars, which tends to treat the astronauts and their families as if they were actors rather than human beings. Tragedy hits when Mark Bannon, the most senior astronaut chosen for the mission, dies in a plane crash. On top of that, John Farrow treats Mark’s wife sorrow as juicy clickbait, and Cal manages to expose him by filming his behavior live. StarWatch retaliates by exposing that Cal’s father was mainly chosen to go on the mission because his son was so popular, in an attempt to get good PR and public engagement – which doesn’t make his relationship with his father any better. In the middle of all this storm, his only oasis is his newfound relationship with Leon Tucker. Even though the two boys were pretty obviously attracted to each other since day one, Leon didn’t want Cal to get with him thinking he could cure his depression and make him happy. But little by little, they got to know each other better and finally got together. But since Bannon’s death, the Orpheus mission is endangered as the government is threatening to cut their funding, so Cal decides to create a lengthy documentary on FlashFame interviewing many employees to explain why this mission is so important. He manages to save the mission, and Leon and him can continue their life away from all the NASA drama.

Opinion: This book was quite lovely, but for some reason I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would? I loved all the NASA part of course (SPACE!) but the romance part of this novel was very much in the background, whereas I thought it would mainly be a love story, so maybe that’s why I was a little disappointed. Still it was a nice story, with engaging and diverse characters, and I mean – “gays in space” 🙂

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