Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Orbiting Jupiter

I was very much looking forward to Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt because I generally really enjoy Gary Scmidt's books. After reading the first chapter, I was certain that this one would wreck me emotionally. Possibly more than any other. I wasn't wrong. But I also wasn't right. I was expecting a good sort of emotionally destroyed. A Code Name Verity type of emotionally destroyed. That's not what I got.

Jack lives a quiet sheltered life on his parents' farm in Maine until his family takes in a 14 year old foster kid named Joseph. Joseph became a father at 13 and was sent to a Juvenile Detention Center. Broken and sad, Joseph's one dream is to be reunited with his infant daughter, Jupiter. Jack's life is changed by seeing his school, town, and life in general through Joseph's eyes.

The harsh events of Joseph's life is all too realistic. He is an abused child who was screwed over by the system on pretty much every level imaginable. He is incredibly smart particularly when it comes to Math. He really and truly loved Jupiter's mom and only wants to take care of his baby.

Jack is greatly impacted by the tragedy in Joseph's life. He wants to be his friend and have his back. He stands up for him at school and tries to keep him from getting hurt. He is haunted by the words Joseph speaks during his nightmares at night. The relationship that develops between the two of them is an interesting one. Joseph is not really sure what to do with Jack at first, but he begins to share parts of his life with him and give him advice.

While I found all of the events of Orbiting Jupiter to be incredibly realistic, I can not say the same for the characters. There are far too many perfect people inhabiting this book. And the characters who aren't perfect are horribly cliché in their awfulness. Jack and his parents are amazing, and there are truly amazing foster families in this world. I know. I'm friends with many of  them, but no one is perfect. Everyone has their breaking points and resentments in these situations. That none of them ever came out made it hard to swallow. Then there is Joseph himself who is not responsible for pretty much any of the terrible that has befallen him. He got a girl pregnant. Her parents were displeased. Everything else is not on him. The book goes out of its way to make him a helpless innocent victim of the system. This is particularly annoying given the conclusion of the book. I would say more about why this bothers me, but can't due to spoilers. In the end I found the book to be emotionally manipulative rather than emotive.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Clarion Books, via Edelweiss. Orbiting Jupiter goes on sale  October 6th.


  1. Halelujah! I've been trying to pinpoint why I had such a drastically negative reaction to this book, and I think you hit it on the head. That, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.

    1. I was not okay when I finished reading it, but it wasn't a good not okay. I was ANGRY but not how I think Schmidt intended me to be. It took some DMing someone on Twitter who had also read it for me to fully figure out what made the book not work.

  2. Okay, yikes. Yikes yikes yikes. I'm going to pass on this for now, too. Sighhhhhh.

    And I didn't really like Ash & Bramble, so I still don't have a book to back for the Printz. I was hoping this would be it :/

    1. You and I are not liking the same YAs AT ALL this year. :)

      This was something I meant to mention in the review of this but forgot: I"m not sure what age category this fits in. The narrator is a 6th grader and the prose is quite simple. He is innocent and every difficult subject matter is couched in a lot of euphemism and implications rather than actually addressing any of the harsher realities. I would say it is more MG, but I don't know it will have an audience there. But I don't really know it will with Teens either. I'm stumped.

    2. Maybe I'll love the Thousand Nights book?! Otherwise, frankly, I can't even remember the YA I've read this year aside from Ash & Bramble. Which obviously means I didn't like it very much :D

      I think there's a growing in-between category (which includes Goodbye, Stranger - that's not what you were referring to as YA, is it? Because you're right, I didn't like that - OH. BONE GAP) but if it doesn't appeal to both MG and YA, then yeah, it'll just get lost in the shuffle!

      It's funny, because Okay for Now wasn't really euphemistic at all.