Gary D. Schmidt is no stranger to heart wrenching literature. In fact, as a two-time Newbery Honor winner, he’s a seasoned pro. Orbiting Jupiter is a shattering tale of love, the strength of family, and true, wholehearted compassion.
The story is told from the perspective of a middle school boy, Jack, growing up in the country, blissfully unaware of how horrible life can be outside of his sheltered community. His biological parents are former foster parents, and the story begins when they decide to take in a troubled boy, Joseph, years after they had withdrawn their home from the foster system. Joseph, closed off at first, gradually reveals more of his harrowing backstory as they show him unending kindness and support. Eventually, readers learn that he has a baby girl, who he is determined to go see, because his custody was taken from him at the time of her birth. He pulls Jack along with him for a wild ride as they finally learn about what family truly means.
I loved this book. While the characters seemed a little young for their tale to be believable (what thirteen-year-old boy in the throes of puberty gets a girl to like him, let alone have his baby?), I still was sucked into the story because of the strong familial bonds present in the characters. Even though the agency had to beg the parents to take in Joseph, their relationship became one of the sweetest I’ve read in YA literature. Even more, this book has a twist ending that may make you cry. If you’re ever in need of a good book, Orbiting Jupiter is short, sweet, and compelling.