Reading Books,  Roque Recommends

Roqué’s Sunday Book Review: “See You in the Cosmos” by Jack Cheng

Today’s book recommendation is another local library find. More often than not, I like to wander all around a library to look at what’s on display in hopes that something catches my eye. Well, this book certainly did. I found it in the children’s section of the Woodbury library, and while it is specifically geared toward younger readers who are in middle school, it’s one of those books that can be read by people of any age.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng is a book that explores the complexities of what it means to be a family and centers around a charismatic young boy who is traveling with his dog to participate in a rocket launching conference. If that premise alone does not attract your interest, then you may be better off taking a nap. This book is written from the perspective of this boy as a conversation with extraterrestrial beings from outer space. (Are you more interested now? No? Then go fluff your 500 thread count Egyptian cotton pillow, pronto!)

Here are the pros of this book in bedazzling polka dots:

Engaging, endearing, and thoughtful characters. It’s always good when the people you read about have integrity and the best intentions. There are a group of characters in this book who practically move mountains to make everything better for the rocket-launching kid. Not to give anything way, but there is something deeply troubling in his life that undermines his wellbeing and his lofty aspirations.

A unique and clever book format. I’ve read books whose chapters are actual diary entries or correspondence letters between characters. This book takes a similar, but quite modern, variation on this format. The chapters are recordings voiced by the boy that are logged in an iPod that he carries everywhere with him. As such, it reads in a way that a middle-school aged child would talk if he happened to be an ambitious and articulate young scientist who often fires on all cylinders. The book flows quickly in an organic and conversational way, ingeniously betraying every vulnerability that this child has.

Many layers and dimensions. It was a lovely surprise to understand that this book has depth and complexity, even though it is intended for young readers. The story confronts some heavy stuff and makes no assumptions that a young mind cannot handle heavier, weightier things. I admire that the author did not hold back and trusted that young readers could comprehend the twisted dynamics that bind people together (or tear them apart). Outside of this, the story is also a coming-of-age adventure, a quirky comedy, and a hero’s journey all balled-up into one. Any reader will get swept up into the swirling pace of its saga.

Okay, are there any cons?

Nope. None that I could think of. Does this make me a bad reviewer?

Probably?

All I can say is that I genuinely enjoyed this book. It’s story is rich, and its characters are strong and compassionate. The writing kept me wanting to know what would happen next. I wanted this boy to be okay.

So, that’s that. If you are still not interested in this book, then, after your long and luxurious nap, step outside and look out into the night sky. The stars and hazy clusters that you see are not what they seem, despite the beauty that they present.

What you see in that night sky is what you’ll find in this book—something wholesome and worthwhile hidden in the distance of things, like the surprising (but often elusive) presence of tenderness and love where it cannot be seen.

It’s the kind of feeling I hope we all experience in our waking hours, soft Egyptian cotton be damned.

—Roqué

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