See You in the Cosmos

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
See You in the Cosmos Book Poster Image
Sweet, quirky road story sparkles with warmth and wisdom.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some science and history, including the story of the Golden Record placed on Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in 1977 and lots of information on astronomer Carl Sagan. Brief discussion of Zen koans and how to meditate and explanations of metaphors and acronyms. Strong message on learning from past mistakes and trying challenges again.

Positive Messages

Courage means being brave when you're sad or scared. There's no shame in failing -- what's more important is how you react to failure. Family is more than the people raising you. Being curious and open to new experiences can lead to life-changing events.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alex is a bubbly, cheerful voice, eager to try new experiences and make friends. He's naive, but his enthusiasm is infectious. He's perceptive and very creative, particularly when he muses on how life on other planets might look, behave, and feel. He's lucky to encounter caring adults such as Zed, Terra, and Ken, who go to considerable lengths to help Alex and ensure his well-being. His brother Ronnie seems distant and disinterested but proves to be fully committed to his family.


Adults argue, and two get into a physical fight. A child is badly injured in an accident.


Veiled references to young adults sorting out romantic interests and discussing suspected sexual relationships. Boy talks about wanting to record sounds of someone in love, including possibly French-kissing or someone in a same-sex relationship.


An iPod is central to the plot. The narrator is fond of Johnny Rockets restaurants, and there are several mentions of snack foods (Coke, Jolly Ranchers) and other brands including YouTube, Febreze, GladWare, and Safeway.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

College-age young adults drink, including during a gathering in an apartment that ends with romantic jealousy and fighting; one participant regrets behaving that way in front of a child.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that See You in the Cosmos -- the first young adult novel by Jack Cheng -- is told through transcripts of recordings by 11-year-old Alex, a bright, resilient Filipino-American boy who travels alone with his dog from Colorado to New Mexico. Alex befriends several adults who help him extend his trip to Las Vegas and then Los Angeles as he discovers information about his late father. The novel deals with messy family history including infidelity, mental illness, emotional abuse, and neglect. There's also a lot of science and history: Alex is recording diary entries on a "Golden iPod" he hopes to send into space just like his hero, Carl Sagan, sent the Voyager Golden Records in 1977. Inspired by Sagan (recording an EEG meant to be the sound of someone falling in love), Alex talks about wanting to record same-sex couples or people French-kissing. The adults he encounters expose him to some mature settings, including drinking, fighting, relationship drama, and an adult club. Alex also finds out what a menstrual period is, though it isn't detailed. There's discussion of a parent's illness and death, and a child is seriously hurt in an accident.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written bygavinsmom1020 April 21, 2019

Worst piece of "literature" I've ever picked up.

As a volunteer at the local library I was asked to screen this book for a middle school book club. It got a big NO for the intended age range of our book club.... Continue reading
Adult Written byYc6386529 March 27, 2021

See you in the cosmos

Never let your child read this book. It talks bout inappropriate things. The main character, Alex, goes to a space program and leaves with two men that he just... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 6, 2020

Its a really good book if you're old enought to understand it.

I think that it is an amazing book that never lets readers get bored of it. The story is really heartwarming and fun to read. All in all, I love it.
Kid, 10 years old January 24, 2021

Great book!

I think it is really interesting especially because it’s written in the transcript of Alex’s iPod recordings and I don’t think there were any too mature parts.... Continue reading

What's the story?

In SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS, 11-year-old Alex (he's 13 "in responsibility years") sets off from his Colorado home for a rocket festival in New Mexico, accompanied by his dog, named after astronomer Carl Sagan. Alex is narrating his trip on an iPod he plans to launch, much like Sagan sent his Golden Record into space. His adventure takes unexpected turns, but he makes new friends -- including a man who's taken a vow of silence and his hotheaded roommate, a relative Alex never knew existed, and fellow rocket enthusiasts -- who help him along. Alex detours to Las Vegas to investigate a mystery involving his father, whom he thought was dead. By the time he returns home, his understanding of his family -- and love, bravery, and truth -- is forever changed.

Is it any good?

In his debut novel for young readers, Jack Cheng makes smart use of technology -- audio recordings on an iPod -- to heighten the emotional drama of his absorbing, irresistible road trip story. See You in the Cosmos is a transcript of Alex recording his story as it happens, with some assists from his travel companions. The technique very effectively plays up Alex's charming frankness, naïveté, and vulnerability, offering just enough hints of the bigger picture to keep readers turning the pages in suspense. Alex is a likable, independent boy intent on finding the positive in almost any situation. His stubborn optimism is irresistible and inspiring

There are strong themes about family, bravery, and responsibility -- though families should talk about the wisdom of Alex's attempted solo adventure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how adults respond to Alex in See You in the Cosmos. Do you think they were responsible and appropriate?

  • How do you decide whether new people you meet should be treated with caution, as strangers, or as potential friends?

  • Do you think Alex's brother is right not to cooperate with media coverage? Have you ever put yourself forward and later regretted not preserving your privacy?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age and road trip stories

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