Review of The Year We Fell from Space

The Year We Fell from Space
by Amy Sarig King
Intermediate, Middle School    Levine/Scholastic    264 pp.    g
10/19    978-1-338-23636-1    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-338-23646-0    $10.99

Twelve-year-old “amateur creative astronomer” Liberty Johansen, having memorized all the constellations, makes up her own and meticulously maps them. Her love of the cosmos comes from her father — who, at the start of the book, is separating from Liberty’s mother, his severe depression (and, we find out later, infidelity) too much strain to bear. Liberty thinks of it as their family’s “free fall from space,” but then something does fall from space — a meteorite, which begins communicating with her. The meteorite offers comfort, as Liberty worries about her younger sister Jilly, who doesn’t want to leave the house; her own mental health (“maybe we should have gone with Dad and not stayed with Mom. Because if something happens to my brain, I don’t want her to kick me out too”); and the whole boy-girl thing, having been “excommunicated” from sixth grade for making fun of the pretend recess-time weddings (“It was the Tuesday after my dad moved out. Of course I thought weddings were stupid”). As she navigates her new family structure, Liberty loses her love for the stars and for herself before, cathartically, reconnecting with both. King (Me and Marvin Gardens, rev. 1/17, for middle graders; and her masterful YA oeuvre including Ask the Passengers, rev. 1/13, and, most recently Dig., rev. 3/19) is keenly attuned to her characters’ humanity, from the core family members to Dad’s new girlfriend to the neighbors going through a parallel family breakup. As always, the author’s sensitivity to her characters’ situational challenges is stunningly, compassionately insightful — and her narrative voice and just-this-side-of-realism setting uniquely her own.

From the November/December 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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