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MikeMullin

Mike Mullin, Author

I'm the author of the ASHFALL three-and-a-half-ology: ASHFALL, ASHEN WINTER, SUNRISE, and DARLA'S STORY.

Orbiting Jupiter - Gary D. Schmidt

I'm a huge Gary Schmidt fanboy--I've read literally every novel he's published. Lizzie Bright and The Wednesday Wars each earned a spot on my all-time-favorite books list; Schmidt is one of only two or three authors to have two books on that select list. For my money, he's the best writer working in kidlit today who hasn't won a Newbery.

 

So to say I was anticipating Orbiting Jupiter is a gross understatement. I scored an advanced reading copy (ARC) from my dealer--thanks Mom! (She owns Kids Ink Children's Bookstore. They get ARCs of everything.)  

 

It did not disappoint. I think I just read the Newbery winner. I hope I just read the Newbery winner. Please, God, let this be the Newbery winner. It's that good. Simple and spare and elegiac with not a word wasted or misplaced. And Schmidt is due. Past due.

 

The book asks the question whether Joseph's love for Madeline and their baby, Jupiter, conquer his age, fourteen. And answers it: not really. But the struggle is so beautiful and moving that I found myself choking back tears throughout most of the back half of the book.

 

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD

 

 

Orbiting Jupiter strongly implies that Joseph was raped in juvie. I salute Schmidt for including that sentence; it's perfect in the context of his story. There has been a lot of criticism recently of the portrayal of rape in literature and television, and it's an important discussion to have. There is certainly room for books that pretend that sexual violence doesn't exist, but in the real world, the one Schmidt writes in, sadly, it does. Artists like Schmidt (or G.R.R. Martin) don't perpetuate rape culture by portraying it, they shine a light and start discussions that help to end it.

 

If I have one quibble, it's with the ending of the novel. I don't have any issue with books in which the protagonist dies (or is horribly maimed, as you know if you've read my work), but in this case Joseph's noble sacrifice ends the possibility of him resolving his struggle to be reunited with Jupiter on his own, and therefore comes off as something of a deus ex machina. It robs the character of his agency and the reader of the joy of witnessing his struggle and ultimate victory. It also leaves Joseph's relationship with his father fundamentally unresolved. I would have liked a longer novel that allowed us to witness the culmination of his efforts, rather than chopping it short as quickly as a car skidding off a bridge. 

(show spoiler)

 

Despite that quibble, Orbiting Jupiter is a brilliant book, and absolutely worthy of your reading time. It releases on October 16th, 2015.