Orbiting Jupiter is a very short book. At 183 pages, Schmidt makes every page a rollercoaster and packs as much action and feels into each chapter as he can. It’s also probably one of the most moving books that I have ever read, so make sure you’ve got some tissues next to you when you’re reading this.
Twelve-year-old Jack has a family that is caring for fourteen-year-old Joseph. Joseph is misunderstood. He was incarcerated for trying to kill a teacher. Or so the rumours say. But Jack and his family see something others in town don’t want to.
What’s more, Joseph has a daughter he’s never seen. The two boys go on a journey through the bitter Maine winter to help Joseph find his baby – no matter the cost.
This is a book that packs a punch is such a short amount of time and I’m actually struggling how to categorise this book… I would say that the writing is aimed at younger audiences because there’s a twelve-year-old narrator and the writing style definitely reflects this, but then there are some really dark themes that run through the book such as abuse and death. So I think I would recommend it for middle-grade children upwards.
Throughout the book, I had this idea in my head that Jupiter wasn’t actually Joseph’s baby and that Maddie had been abused but then Joseph had been told the baby was his – I mean, he was thirteen at the time and Joseph and Maddie’s sexual activities aren’t made clear at all. So yeah, I thought that the baby wasn’t actually Joseph’s, and I think that when I found out that it was his, I was a bit disappointed. Apart from the ending, there were no real shocks. I know that this isn’t a crime/thriller book and that shocks aren’t really necessary, but I think that when you are writing about a fourteen-year-old Dad, then a few shocks along the way is just realistic. I also found the ending to be tear-jerking (I genuinely cried), but then having that certain thing happen also adds emotional manipulation to the book which isn’t a good thing… Younger audiences may just be moved by the ending as they may not realise that the manipulation is underlying it, but older audiences may recognise it. I feel like things happening to characters that have had a traumatic past to make the audience sad just sends the wrong message.
For a short novel, I found Schmidt’s character to be very three-dimensional. It was easy to feel for them and to live their story through Schmidt’s words. I especially loved Jack’s parents. I thought they were just amazing; they were so supportive, protective and just always wanted to do the right things for their two sons. It was obvious that they wanted to create a warm and loving household for Joseph and just wanted him to be happy whilst he was living with them.
“You know how teachers are. If they get you to take out a book they love too, they’re yours for life.”
― Gary D. Schmidt,
I would be quite interested to see what happens to Jupiter in the future… Schmidt, I think another 180-word book should be written, please! As aforementioned, there are some very heavy topics in this book and I think that Schmidt handles them perfectly and conveys them in a way that is understandable to the younger audience. He gives just the right amount of detail for a younger audience to know what’s going on, but then it isn’t too simplistic for the older audience like me.
Overall, I do think that this book is very good. It’s a book that will completely move you, but it’s also very heart-warming. I’m going to give it 4 stars and not 5 just because of the emotional manipulation at the end of the book – it kind of ruined it for me. However, the rest of the book was very impressive and I know it’s going to be a book that I am going to re-read.
Warning: this book contains triggers for abuse and death.
Disclaimer: this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review