I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 6, 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Jack, 12, tells the gripping story of Joseph, 14, who joins his family as a foster child. Damaged in prison, Joseph wants nothing more than to find his baby daughter, Jupiter, whom he has never seen. When Joseph has begun to believe he’ll have a future, he is confronted by demons from his past that force a tragic sacrifice.
Orbiting Jupiter was first brought to my attention by Entertainment Weekly’s blurb about ‘What’s Hot in YA’ fall releases. I am so glad I saw that article because this was a book that has been with me since I finished it. The narrative is interesting because everything is told from the perspective of 12 year old Jack, whose parents have agreed to foster the very troubled Joseph. Jack’s voice gave it a younger, more open view of what’s going on, so even though it covers some very mature problems, I think this book could probably bridge into upper middle grade as well as YA. Jack kind of sees everything and takes everything at face value, not always understanding what Joseph is going through. One of my favorite parts of this story is the friendship, and even brotherhood, that develops between Joseph and Jack. Jack has always known love and security and Joseph has always had those things ripped away. Jack witnesses the prejudice that someone with Joseph’s history faces from the school administration, but he also sees teachers who are willing to work hard to make sure that Joseph succeeds. I loved that balance because, as with everything, there will be people who doubt you and there will be people who fight for you. As Joseph slowly starts to trust his new family, we learn about his daughter, whom he has never seen. His story and the story of the mother of the child brings even more tragedy to Joseph’s story and I found myself rooting for him to succeed, both in getting to meet his daughter and in life. You can still see, though, how his desperation for love and his young age clouds his judgement when it comes to Jupiter, and that’s something that the adults try hard to communicate to him. Through Jack’s eyes, we see a kid in pain, and Jack’s protective feelings towards Joseph add a truly wonderful friendship to the story.
Orbiting Jupiter is heartbreaking. There will definitely be a need for tissue when you read this book. It is very short (I read it in one sitting) but so emotional that I’m not sure I could have taken a longer book at that level of intensity. It’s one of those stories that evokes a lot of emotion and, depending where you are in your life journey, I think the feelings will be for different reasons. Since I am raising children, I could only think abut Jack’s parents and about how Joseph was feeling toward Jupiter. I cried and cried at the end, but it was worth it. I think this book does a great job of telling a very intense, sad, and meaningful story about love and loss.