Review of We Dream of Space

 We Dream of Space
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Intermediate, Middle School    Greenwillow    392 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-06-274730-3    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-274732-7    $9.99

In the foreground of this novel are three siblings. Twelve-year-old Fitch lives for video games and is angry through and through. His twin sister Bird is an amiable, peacekeeping engineering brainiac. Their older brother Cash feels he is a failure at school and everywhere else. In the middle ground is the toxic marriage of their parents, a couple given to sourness, sarcasm, and bickering. In the background, coloring the emotional tone of the book, establishing its historical setting, and propelling the plot, is the upcoming launch of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986. With short chapters focusing alternately on each sibling, Kelly establishes distinct and original characters, doing an especially convincing job of re-creating, in Fitch, the physicality of rage. The form also emphasizes the emotional isolation of each member of the family. Middle school is portrayed in all its intensity, where a social misstep and an existential question about the meaning of life have the same weight. Tension builds until the shock of the Challenger disaster resets the relationship among the three children, releasing kindness in each one. Kelly creates a crisp, moving portrait of family dysfunction and the resilience of the young. Back matter provides information on the Challenger spacecraft and the seven crew members who died when it exploded, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe and mission specialist Judith Resnik (Bird’s idol).

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Ellis
Sarah Ellis is a Vancouver-based writer and critic, recently retired from the faculty of The Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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