If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember that Emma and I cohosted a feature called Let’s Talk YA. We decided to revamp this during this world-wide pandemic to become a weekly series where we highlight books that are being published during this time that may not get the release they deserve. We will often feature a review or some other exciting bookish content. This was started last week with some awesome recent releases.
We strongly encourage other people to join in the conversation and promote upcoming books they’re excited about!
Today’s post highlights the wonderful The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper.
Emma and I were lucky enough to be granted an exclusive extract from the awesome Mattea at Bloomsbury, the first half of which can be found on Emma’s blog.
As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.
Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.
We meander through the Lower East Side, which isn’t all that different from our neighborhood in Brooklyn. Okay, it’s a little bit dirtier, and there are fewer toddlers getting in my way, but otherwise, I see the similarities.
“I love this area,” Deb says.
“Yeah, it’s okay for things like that random pop-up cas-sette shop,” I say with a shrug. “I hear they’re putting in a Trader Joe’s here.”
“Jesus,” she swears. “Of course they are.”
We duck into a tiny bakery with no more than five stools of seating. The two bakers are cramped behind the counter, and I start to get claustrophobic on their behalf. But as I look around, I see glimpses of the neighborhood in notices plastered on the walls. Yoga classes, babysitting offers, piano lessons, writers’ groups. Panning out, I see protest signs, queer pride flags of all varieties, old campaign stickers from the past cou-ple of elections.
New York has a way of making you feel at home, no matter where you’re at. You just have to step off the street, and some neighborhood will claim you as one of their own.
“Exactly how do you make a vegan lemon curd?” Deb asks, fascinated, and I realize I’m missing her in her element. Before the baker can even answer, she rambles on. “This place is amaz-ing. I’m going to get a dozen, but I think I want literally one of each flavor. Is that too much?” she asks no one in particular.
I’m a vegetarian, but she’s a full-on vegan, and she’s in heaven. Vegans get a bad rap, but Deb’s always been down-to-earth about it. She embraces it, but not to the extent where she’s treating it like a cult.
This also means we have to go to every new vegan restau-rant, bakery, pop-up, and festival the moment it opens, and I am not complaining about that.
“You’re sharing these with me, right?” I ask.
“Oh dear sweet Jesus in heaven,” she says after biting into a doughnut. “Not if they’re all as good as this lemon curd.”
We take our time walking toward Brooklyn, with no real destination in mind. It’s too far to walk all the way, but it’s a surprisingly nice day, and I’m not in a rush. I know Deb’s not.
“You shouldn’t have paid for these,” Deb says. “I have a job, dude. You don’t need to jump in and save me anymore.”
I blush. “I know, it wasn’t that. But I left you alone in that cassette pop-up, so defenseless you had to pretend you were one of us to fit in. The horrors you must have overcome. This is the least I can do.”
What I don’t say is, I know she’s saving every penny from her job. Deb works harder than anyone I know. If I could fix her home life, I would. But until we can flee our respective coops, all I can do is pay for her sugar high.
“One World Trade. We’re approaching tourist central,” I say. “I’ll take a few pics for my Flash story, then we’ve got to get a train.”
The sun’s nowhere to be seen, but a series of low clouds pass by, getting split in two by the shining tower. It’s a perfect New York afternoon, but I feel the tug in my chest that reminds me what’s waiting for me at home. As we hop on a train and make half smiles at each other, I can tell we’re thinking the same thing. There’s a pretty high chance that one or both of our nights are about to be ruined by our parents.
We make it back to Brooklyn in record time. Anxiety grips my chest as I take the stairs up our stoop, and I know Deb usu-ally feels the same. To be quite honest, I would have been fine spending a few more minutes delaying the inevitable awkward conversations and heated fights that wait for me at home. Not like the arguments are ever directed at me, but they’re still all around me. Lingering.
Wearing our family down.
I part ways with Deb at the third floor of our apartment building, and a tightness balls up in my shoulders—clenching, constricting—when I launch up the stairs to my apartment, taking them two at a time. Before I even reach my door with the shiny 11 on it, I hear the shouts.
It wasn’t always like this.
I put the key in the lock, and with a heavy sigh, I turn it. A frown falls over my face almost instantly. I slam the door to make my presence known, but it doesn’t fix things, it doesn’t stop them. I want my being home to mean something. I want . . .
I don’t know what I want—to not feel helpless when they’re like this. I try to escape into my phone, but my notifications are once again flooded with questions about . . . the astronauts.
I sigh as I scroll through.
kindil0o (Chelsea Kim): Hi, big fan. Um, is it just me or have you stopped profiling the astronauts? I used to love your streams, and I still do, but I’d like to see more of your old stuff. Are we getting to Mars or not? You only spent like 30 secs on the new astronaut search??
I mute the notification. Of course my followers would notice how short my NASA segments are, how my eyes dart away from the camera when I mention the search for the newest astronauts.
Everyone wants to know why, and I’m staring at the reason: my dad just flew back from Houston from his final round of interviews with NASA.
If he has it his way, I’ll never escape this mission.
Let’s talk! Have you read The Gravity of Us? What are some of your most anticipated upcoming releases in the next few months?
Also don’t forget to check out Emma’s Let’s Talk Books post.