See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng

“I packed Carl Sagan’s special kibble, also they are going to have barbeque food at SHARF but Carl Sagan can’t eat it because he has a sensitive digestive system.” - Alex, See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng

This book is a little gem. I knew I had found something special after reading only the first page. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a reading copy of this title before it had even been released. Working in a bookstore has its perks on occasion. See You In The Cosmos was written by Jack Cheng and was released this year. It was not only the authors first YA novel, but also his first to be published by a major publisher (Penguin Random House UK).

The story has a wonderfully unique narrative. It is told through a series of audio recordings by eleven year old Alex Petroski. Alex is on a mission to launch his golden iPod into space. But first, he is recording everything he possibly can to inform other life forms in the cosmos about his daily life on planet Earth and what it means to be human. He aims to capture everything from his journey to SHARF (a rocket festival in New Mexico, where he plans to launch the iPod) to what a man sounds like when he is falling in love.

Alex is clever but also vastly idealistic, which is admirable considering his circumstances are far from ideal. His father passed away when he was very young and his mother is clearly suffering a mental breakdown. His brother Kyle takes care of the bills and sends money for groceries, which Alex does by himself and then prepares meals each day for he and his mother. Other than financially Kyle is never really there for Alex. He rarely visits and pays little attention when they talk on the phone. He works as a sports agent in Los Angeles. His job and girlfriend occupy most of his time. Your heart really goes out to this kid. He is very much left to fend for himself, but he never once complains. Although he has clearly adapted and become fiercely independent for his age, he appears completely oblivious as to how abnormal and dangerous his situation is. He sets off on his journey to SHARF with his only companion, Carl Sagan. No not the famous astronomer and scientist, his dog, which he has hilariously named after his hero.

Dr Carl Sagan was a legend. He is probably best known for his research on proving the existence of extra-terrestrial life. If you haven’t seen the 1980’s TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, I highly recommend it. My partner coincidentally introduced me to it earlier this year. It is truly fascinating and has remarkably aired in 60 different countries to a whopping 500 million people. It’s definitely worth a look folks. You don’t have to know who Carl Sagan is to enjoy this book, although it does add to the hilarity. Picturing this little kid dressed up like the famous scientist in his iconic turtleneck and brown jacket, referring to his dog as Carl Sagan at all times, never ceased to crack me up.

The loveable pair embarks on an unforgettable road trip, featuring colourful characters and revelations a plenty. While on his adventure at SHARF, Alex discovers through that there was a man with the same name and birthday as his father who lived in Las Vegas. In need of answers, Alex and Carl Sagan head for Vegas with the help of two strangers, Zed (a former motivational speaker and author, who has taken a vow of silence) and Steve (a fellow rocket enthusiast with a barrel of relationship issues). When they arrive at the address they got from they are greeted by Terra, a half-sister Alex never even knew existed and the plot begins to unravel.

This story is sweet and quirky while also dealing with some really heavy issues such as child neglect, mental illness, and loss. From a bright, independent and positive young boys perspective we get a glimpse into how absurd adult life can be. I think this is what impressed me most about this book. Yes, Alex is naïve, but you really see how adults could benefit by adopting a more simplistic, optimistic attitude. This kid will break your heart while making you laugh and this book will quickly nestle its way into your heart. This story is a gift and I felt lucky to have found it, so I had to share it with you guys. If you enjoyed Wonder or The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time, then grab yourself a copy. You won’t regret it. That’s it for this week bibliophiles; hope you enjoyed my recommendation. Also if anyone wants to recommend books to me, feel free to comment below or contact me directly. I am always hunting for unique and interesting new worlds to dive into. Until next time, may your days be filled with peace, love and poetry.

“They should give everyone a test to see how responsible they are and then give them a responsibility age. I know I’d be at least 13 then because I can already cook and take care of a dog.” - Alex, See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng