Parents' Guide to

Clues to the Universe

By JK Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Two friends look for fathers, reach for stars in brave tale.

Book Christina Li School 2021
Clues to the Universe Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 8+

Based on 1 parent review

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1 ):
Kids say (1 ):

While it meanders a bit in its middle third, this sweet story of loss, searching, and perseverance in the face of adversity just about touches the stars it so reaches for. Clues to the Universe is a stunning debut that surprises emotionally. Whether dealing with racist bullying behavior at middle school, parents who won't answer questions, or knowing your father will never be coming home, the two main characters each admirably face their fatherless realities in eager hopes of finding something that might replace what they lost. This novel gives words, time, and voice to many of the feelings kids must experience when going through losing a parent. There are plenty of unexpectedly affecting moments, and nothing comes off as overly sentimental.

There are triumphant moments to cheer for and periods of tension and drama that will genuinely irk and annoy. Jumping back and forth in perspective between Ro and Benji can be jarring at first, but eventually the story settles into a groove that allows for chapter to chapter cliffhangers that help to propel it along. Some may find issue with the neat and tidy ending that many kids in similar situations either could never have access to. But this is not a gritty take on the "broken family" narrative. Rather, it's a tender look at grief that gives children a clear voice not often given. It's refreshing to see that each time an adult character might be expected to suddenly appear with some needed source of wisdom, information, knowledge, or guidance, they don't. Almost always, it's the kids' words that prompt the next piece of action or the next plan.

Book Details

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