Review of Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:

        Joseph almost killed a teacher.

        He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.

        He has a daughter.  Her name is Jupiter.  And he has never seen her.

What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl.

Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help.

But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen.  The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.

This is my first “sticky book” review.  “Sticky books” (stolen from Dan Buri because nothing explains it better) are books that seem to stick with you long after you’ve read them.  The characters are so poignant and the writing so beautiful, they live in your heart forever. I have to admit at the outset, I am a huge fan of anything that Gary Schmidt writes.  His books and characters linger long after reading the last page and Orbiting Jupiter is no exception.

The story, told from Jack’s point of view, begins with Joseph’s arrival to the Hurd home.  Initially, Jack isn’t sure what to think of the young man that has come to live with his family.  Distant doesn’t begin to describe Joseph. Jack studies Joseph, who’s only connection seems to be to Rosie the cow.  Jack observes how others treat Joseph and quickly concludes that Joseph needs someone in his corner and despite the trouble that comes his way, decides he is going to be that person.  Schmidt writes a beautifully empathetic character in Jack. His quiet observations and his determination to help another are truly touching.

We are witness to the change that comes over Joseph as he begins to grow and blossom under the kindness and care of the Hurd’s and the encouraging teachers at his school giving us hope for Joseph’s future.  Circumstances intervene, however, and the results are devastating for both Jack and Joseph.

Set in the small town of Lewiston, Schmidt shines a light on how bias and stereotypes are both accepted and rejected.  Joseph is looked down on for his past, while at the same time supported for his potential. The reader sees the dramatic effects of both.

The plot contains everything you look for when reading a Gary Schmidt novel.  Recurring inside jokes, and scenes that take place in the unlikeliest places (a barn), caring teachers and strong, endearing characters that you immediately connect to.

This is a short, easy read in terms of style and complexity, however, it does contain events and themes that are more appropriate to an older reader.  Orbiting Jupiter showcases Schmidt’s amazing ability to write sparingly while still packing an emotional punch.  If you haven’t read any of his books, I highly recommend you do! Click here to get your copy!

 

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