Monday, January 4, 2021

MG Review of Clues to the Universe by Christina Li

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li 
Publisher:  Quill Tree Books
Number of pages:  304
Publishing:  January 12th, 2021
Source: Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Opening Lines:  "The last time I watched a rocket launch, I learned that there was no sound in space."  

One of Rosalind "Ro's" fondest memories was watching the Space Shuttle Columbia launch with her dad, it was in that shared special moment that Ro decided she was going to build her own model rocket.  Then Ro's dad unexpectedly dies and her life was forever changed.  Ro now needs to start at a new school, because the private school she attended is now too expense.  She's understandably nervous about being the new girl,  preferring things ordered and calm, which her new school is defiantly not.   Benji loves reading comic books, eagerly devouring each new release of Spacebound.  While searching through a box of his father's things, he finds a sketch and can't help noticing that it has an uncanny resemblance to that of his favorite comic book author.  Could his father be the creator of Spacebound?  Then one day while in science class, Ro and Benji's purple folders get mixed up, Ro ends up with Benji's comic book collection and a scribbled on map, while Benji gets the schematics and figures to the rocket that Ro is building.  Drawn together by the mishap, they decide to help one another out with their projects.  Benji will help Ro build her rocket for the science fair and Ro will help Benji find out where his father lives.  When Ro learns that Benji's father is scheduled to be at the movie premier for Spacebound, she tries to get him to go with her, but after the two have a huge fight, Benji sneaks off to try and see his dad alone.  Ro in turn convinces her neighbor and mother to take her to the movie premier to bring him home. 

Growing up my best friend was the boy who lived next door, we used to play for hours drawing pictures and playing in his backyard, so I'm always drawn to stories that feature a strong boy and girl friendship.  Ro and Benji are such endearing characters who at first don't have much in common.  Ro likes science and working on her model rocket to commemorate her father, Benji is an artist who hopes that the extra credit from the science fair will improve his grade enough so his mom won't force him to give up his art class.  What connects the two is how they feel about their dad's.  Ro is grieving the loss of hers and Benji wants to connect with his, never really having known him since he left when he was still very young.   All that Benji knows about his life boils down to a box of his things.  This is a really sweet story and love how it alternates between Ro and Benji's points of view.  While the story portrays Ro's grief over her father's death, it also has these very enjoyable playful moments that Benji and Ro share, like when Ro catches Benji being distracted in class, and nudges him to "pay attention doofus."  Despite having a strong friendship, they do have a moment where they have a falling apart, which makes them resolving things that much sweeter.   The adults in the story also were something that really stood out to me, like Mr. Voltz, Ro's elderly next door neighbor and both Ro and Benji's mothers.  Such a delightful read and brought to mind my own youthful friendships.    

**Thank you to Quill Tree Books for the E-ARC** 

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sounds like a great read. I'm excited to feature Christina and her book on my blog too.