Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review: Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt (#RocTBF2016)

I read Orbiting Jupiter because the author in attending/ presenting at the Rochester Teen Book Festival next month and I am on a mission to have read at least one book by each author who attends by at that date.

This was my first Gary Schmidt novel and I had no idea what to expect. It was written for those in the 6th grade and older. 

Here's the Goodreads summary:
"Jack, 12, tells the gripping story of Joseph, 14, who joins his family as a foster child. Damaged in prison, Joseph wants nothing more than to find his baby daughter, Jupiter, whom he has never seen. When Joseph has begun to believe he’ll have a future, he is confronted by demons from his past that force a tragic sacrifice."
Now, for context:

I am a psychologist that works almost exclusively with children and families that are struggling with some major issues. I work with foster parents, adoption, and children who have been through some crazy things that no one should ever go through. Traumatized kids are my business. And I felt this book really nailed a lot of it.

Jack, who is a 12- year-old- boy who grew up with his biological family on a farm meets 14-year-old Joseph after he's had an unimaginable experience at a juvenile detention center. Jack narrates in a simple straight forward way. He is curious and observant in a way that kids are. Joseph doesn't talk and he sometimes looks like he's ready to fight. In fact, he is. His world view and thoughts about how to handle life's challenges and cope with new situations and bullies varies a great deal from Jack's. There are no explicit details about the events that have led Joseph to not allow people to stand behind him, but we have some ideas. There's also a father who interferes and keeps Joseph grounded in doubt and resentment about the world and any future he might hope to have. AND add to all that, Joseph is himself a father who never wants his baby girl to go through what he's gone through. 

Joseph takes some time and patience to warm up to the family and he is hit with every pre-conceived notion by his teachers and other adults. He's a kid who has seen his share of rough discipline and is much worse for having gone through it.

One of the things I love about this book is the adults who not only give Joseph the benefit of the doubt that he is actually worth being considered an adult, but those that go out of their way to show him respect and that not all adults are assholes, the adults who take the time to get to know him and see his behavior as language and not deviance. This is important important important. Did I tell you how important this is? The foster parents are wonderful: consistent, firm, and loving. They apologize when they've done wrong and they talk to Joseph about their concerns in private without humiliation.

I loved this book. BUT, here's what I wrote as my final Goodreads review:  

Have you cried lately? No? Read this book. Problem solved. Well done story from the perspective of a naive 12-year-old who gets a 14-yo foster brother who's been through some serious shit and is focused on seeing his little girl. The ending WRECKED me. Filed under: bring the tissues

If you have ever considered learning about being a foster parent in New York state, I encourage you to learn more information. At the end of 2013, we had about 20,000 children in foster care. The outcomes for these children are much better with caring adults in their lives.

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