WE DREAM OF SPACE
Ages: 11-15 (give or take)
Author: Erin Entrada Kelly
It’s January 1986. As in, Challenger launch (nearly). This is the only thing keeping Bird Thomas going, and from going. As in, going from her family. Finch Thomas is kept going only by his favourite arcade game, Major Havoc. And Cash Thomas? Well, it could be the girl who sits in front of him in class, but it definitely isn’t his basketball skills.
Three siblings, same grade, same parents, end of similarity – each drifting in their own orbits within a bitter, broken family.
The title is promising. Oh, so promising. And it isn’t much of a letdown! (which is unexpected). It’s the classic siblings-coming-together because of shared terrible-parents sort of thing, but not unoriginal.
OK, the subtitle ‘Family is a complicated galaxy‘ sucks.
The book makes a big deal of using multiple characters’ perspectives, but stays third-person so it isn’t so intense/confusing/tiring/direct. The flow from one to the next is natural. The story goes particularly smoothly and unstoppably (I read it in an afternoon straight) because, although to divide sections there is a sort-of chapter heading and a picture of the main character for the coming part, the “chapters” are very short and there are no page breaks between them – a small design detail that means a lot.
To the point again:
I, having just been reminded of the fine detail Challenger launch, found We Dream of Space more suspenseful from the start (is the launch common history in the US? South African kids aren’t too familiar with it). I can’t really say if it is important general knowledge for the story to work.
It starts of quite light, except for the standard parent issues, but gets a bit deep. The ending pulls of the ideas of the book quite well: I really appreciate that not everything, in fact very little, is resolved, and that’s OK – although it was a little quick and I some characters seem to suddenly become OK with stuff they were sentences ago not OK with, for no apparent reason.
Some faults: near the end, Bird seems to confuse Earth with a star (“Maybe they [someone on the other side of the Milky Way] see a dot in the sky… make a wish on it… the dot in the sky is Earth”?!), some language I find kinda offensive (most won’t even notice, some readers will get me), one sentence of unnecessary growing-up discussion. I have also just read a section of Humble Pi, Matt Parker, about the possible – likely – extra reason for that thing with the Challenger launch (pg 222).
There were also plenty of wasted opportunities to make metaphors out of gravitational pull of large objects (other than one symbolic/metaphorical case of Cash not being able to jump high), overlapping orbits, and the central object of a solar system.
That was a bit of a wordy review, but the bottom line is that it’s a good book. Not a slow read, but not a light and sunny read. Some slightly sciency stuff. Nice science teachers, too.
7.7543/10 (who doesn’t like an unnecessarily, randomly long decimal fraction)
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