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For those who like unrelieved bleak ending in tragedy, this is the book for you.
The author has fashioned a colorless January of ennui endured by yet another dysfunctional family. They should have been wearing body cameras so you could see the blank expressions on their faces.
Surprisingly, the book has vacuumed up a number of writing prizes including recent selection as a Newbery Honor Book. Perhaps this is so because in this age of pandemic, insurrection, power outages, and vanishing jobs “We Dream of Space” is the closest thing to Mary Poppins in the New Normal.
The parents in the book are petty, frustrated, bickering and likely two high school graduation days away from divorce. Of the three siblings, one son lives on the edge of volcanic anger. The other son has the academic dynamism of a doorknob. The daughter at the center of the tale, is an emotionally frail dreamer skipping toward catastrophe.
As for the book’s structure, a few gratuitous vignettes add nothing to the story. For example, the author plops down a diversion about interracial marriage, then just leaves it there. In another throwaway, she has the young girl open the door of a classmate’s empty house and nap with the cat. Full stop.
The book also has factual polyps. On page 90, the middle school teacher tells the class to imagine themselves strapped to a rocket ready to launch from Houston. It would have to be imaginary since rockets are not launched from Houston.
Worse, on page 205 is a piece of dialogue where one sibling asks who Sally Ride is. The other sibling says: “The first woman in space.” That answer is wrong. The first woman in space is Valentina Tereshkova.
If after looking in on this hangdog collection of undistinguished characters (possibly excepting the teacher), a reader says “nothing happened,” that would be a more suitable title for this book.