A review of Orbiting Jupiter, by Gary D. Schmidt
Last week, after husband had gone to bed, I decided to pick up a new book and spend 10 minutes or so reading. I’d indulged in a WH Smith haul on my lunch break the week before, coming home with half a dozen books on a whim, and I was keen to work through them.
I opted for a slim YA novel called Orbiting Jupiter, which I picked up thanks to the pretty cover design and chose to buy despite it being part of Zoella’s book club (sorry if you’re a Zoella fan, but that kind of thing puts me off reading).
Instead of the 10 minutes I’d planned, I whizzed through the book in just over an hour and found myself sobbing my heart out on the sofa at 12.30am on a Tuesday morning.
Orbiting Jupiter is a story about an 11 year-old boy called Jack whose parents decide to foster a boy called Joseph, who is a couple of years older. Joseph has a troubled past and spent time in a juvenile prison for attacking a teacher. And despite his young age, he also has a baby daughter called Jupiter, who he’s never seen.
When Joseph comes to live on the family farm, it’s clear he’s been traumatised by his experiences in Stone Mountain, the juvenile facility. But he slowly forms a bond with his foster family and reveals the secrets he’s been carrying, including how much he wants to find his daughter and be a part of her life.
From the outset, I knew this book was going to be something special.
It’s written from the perspective of 11 year-old Jack, in the straightforward language a child might use. Jack is observant and fiercely protective of his foster brother, but he’s not quite old enough to understand the emotional ramifications of the things that have happened to him. In that way, the book reminds me a little of Room: at times, the emotional nature of the story becomes all the more potent because the child narrating doesn’t fully grasp its nuances, but the reader certainly does.
I won’t write too much about the story, because I don’t want to give anything away. But it’s a powerful, heart-breaking read that will smack you right between the eyes with its sheer humanity. It’s easy to forget that Joseph is only 13 years-old. He’s incredibly mature for his age and the sacrifices he chooses to make can’t fail to move you – I’m crying again now just thinking about it.
This is one of the most unexpectedly moving and beautiful books that I’ve read this year. It might be a children’s book, but it’s one that every adult should read.
In Jack and his compassionate family, there’s a lesson about how we should all treat people who have been less fortunate. Just because someone is poor or has been in prison, it doesn’t make them a bad person, unworthy of another chance at life.
You’d think in this day and age we’d all have come to terms with that idea, but apparently some people still need reminding.
I can’t recommend this book enough. Go, read it and tell me what you thought.
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