A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
- Author: Jack Cheng
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication date: February 28, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 14
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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