Reviewed by Jackie Marchant
I don’t like describing books as ‘bitter sweet’, it reminds me of the cloying fragrance of air conditioners. In any case, although it’s a phrase I’ve seen used to describe this book, I won’t go there because it wouldn’t do it justice. Instead, I’d describe it as funny and sad, frustrating and satisfying.
It’s about eleven year old Alex, obsessed with the cosmos and determined to launch his golden iPod into space, by winning a big launch competition for amateur rocket builders. So off he goes, together with his dog Carl Sagan (named after his hero, the famous astronomer, who launched a golden record into space on the Voyager spacecraft) to the middle of the desert to meet other likeminded people.
Yet under all his hopes and his joy at what he is doing, there is an undercurrent of something else going on – the mother he has to leave meals for in the microwave, the absent brother and non-existent father. Yet, he records all of this on his golden iPod, so it can be heard by the alien life-forms who find it after he’s sent it into space.
But as he meets other members of the amateur rocket community who assumed they were talking online to an adult, we can see, even though Alex appears not to, that there is cause for concern. We also see that he is so likeable that they are willing to help him.
As Alex sets off to Las Vegas to discover the truth about his father, we are touched by both his innocence and the support he has from this odd bunch of people he’s never met who care about him enough to help. At the same time there is the realisation that those who should care most about him, don’t. Until it becomes a real possibility that Alex will have to go into care.
It’s a book about innocence, love, friendship, support and most of all, hope. It’s a feel-good read, light-hearted and refreshing and full of characters you’d like to meet in real life. It’s a book that I suspect will be enjoyed by adults as much as the mid-grade readers it is aimed at.
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