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The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), May 10, 2011
Read for 2011 Debut Author Challenge and A-Z Reading Challenge
Summary from Goodreads:
While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him.I first heard of this book at a Booklist webinar, where several publishers were promoting their favorite upcoming YA titles. I requested and received an ARC; in the meantime, I used this title for my Waiting on Wednesday for that week. Gae Polisner saw my WOW (squee!), and commented how happy she was to see her book on my blog.
Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make this a truly original coming-of-age story.
I'm very happy to report that I loved this book. It is, as Gae mentioned in an email, a "quiet" book (compared with paranormal fiction, at any rate), but it's a strong storyline with incredible characters. Our narrator, Nick, is just your average kid--he's not extraordinarily handsome or athletic--in other words, he's pretty much just like most of us. His family life isn't great--there's nothing earth-shatteringly bad about it, it's just not spectacular (again, like most of our families). Mom works harder than she should have to, because Dad, a former journalist, has gained an obscene amount of weight and literally sits on the couch all day. Nick's older brother, Jeremy, is just like most older bros--most of the time he can't stand Nick, but once in a while (when it really counts), he steps up.
What makes Nick special is his friendship with Scooter, who was born with a form of progeria, which causes rapid aging in young children. So basically the Scoot is a teenager with the body of an old man. And because there's no treatment or cure for progeria, and because he ages so quickly, he will die way sooner than he should. The Scoot is a remarkable character. His level of maturity is one not often seen in adults, let alone young teens. He regards his pending death with a quiet dignity not often seen anywhere.
Jaycee rounds out this little group. She's the stepdaughter of a local news personality, and meets Nick when Stepdad interviews the family. Nick's dad makes a decision to emulate a man who gained some fame walking from CA to NY, and this causes the family to gain a bit of popularity. (Based on truth: http://www.thefatmanwalking.com/)
Although the only commonality Nick and Jaycee appear to share is Scoot's friendship, they decide to honor his last wish and head out to try and find Scoot's dad. And of course, as is true of almost all road trip stories, Nick learns a lot about himself, Scooter, Jaycee, and even his family while searching for Scooter's dad.
Jaycee is a fun character, using Slinkys and Trolls are accessories to her outfits. She was just slightly quirky, and reminded me a little bit of Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl. She's a strong character who knows what she wants, and almost always knows how to go about getting it. And, if she doesn't know, she'll either fake it, or ask for help. I love to see characters who aren't afraid to ask for help--that's realism.
There are a lot of references to Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (the book Nick and Jaycee are attempting to deliver), and it's been soooo long since I've read it that I can barely remember it. All the references are explained pretty well, though. Fans of contemporary fiction will enjoy this novel. It's not a tear-jerker (at least it wasn't for me), but it does tug at the heartstrings, and you will care deeply about these characters by the end of the story.
Note on the cover: at the webinar, the publisher put up a "Cover coming soon" on the powerpoint, explaining that the original cover was being revamped. This is the cover of the ARC I received:
I think the publishers were correct to revamp. This cover doesn't really seem indicative of the story at all.
Stay tuned for an author interview with Gae Polisner!
ARC recieved from publisher.
Enjoy your reading!