The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

The Gravity of Us is a YA novel about journalism, media coverage, and astronauts with a romance at its heart. Cal has amassed a lot of followers on the FlashFame app reporting on NYC news and election candidates and is all set for an internship at Buzzfeed as he prepares for his final year at school. However, when his father is selected for an astronaut training programme for the highly-publicised Mars mission, Cal’s life is upended as he moves to Texas and becomes part of the astronaut families reality show. Feeling like he has to give up his dreams, Cal finds an alliance with the children of another astronaut, Leon and Kat, and quickly finds himself falling for Leon. The new life he’s found in Texas might be over before it begins though, as the coverage around the Mars mission becomes complex and fraught.

A YA romance with astronauts as a narrative point will undoubtedly attract a lot of people, though actually the NASA elements are perhaps less important to the overall feel of the book than the way a media outlet wants to paint the astronauts and their families as full of drama and intrigue. The highlight of the book was the look at mental health, through depictions of mental illness and also looking at the need to ‘fix’ people and how life can’t work like that. The message that Cal needed to learn that he couldn’t just fix everything was important, though clearly the character had further to go with that. In general, Cal can be a difficult protagonist to like as he makes a lot of rash or self-centred decisions that affect those around him, but that really brings to the forefront the fact he needs to stop trying to fix people and listen to what they actually need.

The narrative is fast-paced and the romance happens perhaps more quickly than you might expect from conventions of other YA romance books, but it therefore focuses more on the burgeoning relationship than the stage before that. Particularly considering the circumstances, it makes sense in the book, but some readers might prefer it to be more drawn out. The side characters are interesting and Stamper does try to work in little snippets of detail around their lives and skills, though again, Cal’s shortcomings occasionally make you wish you could see more of what they’re doing.

The Gravity of Us is a romance with a drizzle of space that is a good light read with a few messages that hit home. It will probably delight fans of similar YA romance novels, though perhaps not any looking for more of a sci-fi feel.