The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper (Review)

I can’t help this urge I have to try to make it better, to insert myself into this when it’s not my place.

I found The Gravity of Us through following Phil Stamper on twitter, and the hilarious interactions between him and Ryan La Sala, and when I caught a promo post about The Gravity of Us, I knew I had to read it. Queer characters, and space? My favourites. I actually air-punched in excitement when I got accepted for an ARC. The Gravity of Us is out in the UK on May 14th, and it’s an LGBT must-read.

Rating: 4 stars!

Huge thanks to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for the review copy. This hasn’t impacted my honest review.

Read me for the:

  • Space gays, space gays, space gays
  • Social media journalist fighting Big Media
  • Depression rep that hits you in the heart
  • A reality show for astronauts
  • Falling in love under intense scrutiny

The plot:

Cal is a social media journalist with half a million followers, and he’s used to sharing his life online. Until his father is selected for a highly publicised space mission to Mars and Cal and his mother are swept from Brooklyn to Houston and into a media circus where suddenly everything they do is for public consumption. Cal isn’t the only Astrokid in Houston and when he meets the sensitive and enigmatic Leon he can’t help but fall for him – fast. When Cal starts to discover secrets about the program, can he reveal the truth about what’s going on without hurting the people around him?

What did I think?

I adored the background and world-building of this book. It was so interesting I was immediately hooked on the searches for the twenty astronaut candidates, Orpheus launches and the discourse around Shooting Stars and its influence on the astronauts and their families. I was addicted to that plot, and probably as fascinated with the space launch as anyone living in that world (except maybe Cal). It did take me a little while to understand what exactly the role of Shooting Stars was, and how the Orpheus program had developed, but once I did I was sold on it. I loved Cal and Leon, but honestly? I was so drawn into the Orpheus stuff that I forgot for a second that this was a romance story. That is the kind of immersive world-building I like.

One of the themes that jumped out from every page was the idea of private life versus public life. The Shooting Stars program put the astronauts’ lives on full view, commercialising every part of their time living in Houston. On the surface, it looks like Cal did that anyway. He was streaming on FlashFame, reporting news and New York city life online. So surely he was prepared for this? Well, no. There’s a huge separation in our private selves and the public face we publicise for our social media profiles. When Shooting Stars are on the scene, Cal no longer gets to choose what’s for himself what’s his and what’s for public consumption. When he decides to take on Shooting Stars head to head, I was screaming for the little guy, honestly.

He ended up starting a viral campaign to save NASA and it was empowering as hell, reminding me of dozens of similar social media campaigns I’ve seen where everyone throws their voices together to share a message. I got the same feeling with Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston when social media threw its weight behind Alex and Henry. Admittedly, in the real world, social media doesn’t always scream the right message at the right people, but it’s empowering to read in fiction anyway – and I sure like it better than most ‘unbiased’ media outlets.

The romance itself was lush. It was fast-paced, but I don’t hate that. Cal and Leon are teenagers, and who didn’t fall in love with everyone who smiled at them? I’m aro and I still spent half my teenage years obsessing over everyone who looked at me twice. Cal and Leon are so cute. They want to support each other, thrown together in this strange new situation but drawn to each other’s company, and that’s really beautiful. They’re in a shiny new relationship and the way they act around each other felt endearingly authentic. I don’t miss being an awkward teenager, honestly.

Cal’s relationships and the way he approached them was something really beautiful and relatable to me. Cal is a fixer. He likes to fix everything. So am I. No matter how much I know I shouldn’t, I always feel like I should try and fix things for people when I know what they really need from me is empathy. It made me feel seen in a way I wasn’t expecting to see those traits in Cal, and it was kind of an awakening for me to see him work through how he can help the people he loves without being too much about it all. There’s anxiety and depression rep in The Gravity of Us to go with the #ownvoices queer rep, and it was deftly and beautifully handled. Cal was learning that he couldn’t ‘fix’ the people he loves, his mother’s anxiety, Leon’s depression or Deb’s money troubles. They just need him to listen, and that has to be enough for him.

Links:

Add it on Goodreads here!

Pre-order at Waterstones or Amazon (not affiliated) and if you can, please support your local indie booksellers!

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