This novel made me smile, not even sort of. Orbiting Jupiter is quite a deceiving novel. Its short, sweet and written from the perspective of a twelve year old who can make everything sound a bit more fluffy and lighthearted than it actually is. So do not people fooled by the large print and childish annotations, for there is a slew of adult themes and mature content. Its merely misunderstood like the primary character.
The setting of this story is that of a midwestern farm where Jack and his family collect sap and milk cows. A routine that is not disturbed once Joseph enters the family and learns the ropes of farm maintenance from Jack. Now, Joseph is on parole and being fostered by Jack’s family. So the story surrounds Jack and Joseph as they go through middle school and watch Joseph open up to Jack and his family.
Now, there is so much more to Orbiting Jupiter than I have said, but as to avoid spoilers those details will be avoided. Also, most of the story heavily relies on the characters and their growth that it’s very difficult to separate the plot from characters. But because characters make a story let’s give them more time to shine. First, there is Jack a twelve year old sixth grader who lives on a farm and can tell if someone is good or bad based on how a cow reacts to meeting them. He is our narrator and is a very good one. Jack’s narration reminds me of a sophomore history project where students attempt to make children’s novels explaining historical events such as civilians in World War Two and a common method used by the class was to take the story and put it into a child’s perspective who doesn’t fully understand everything, but is very aware that they don’t know everything. Which doesn’t fully capture Jack since he is a very smart and perceptive in his observations. Jack was also very kind hearted and never cared that he was being judged for associating with a criminal, he had a lover greater than friendship with Joseph; he had his back. Alright, on to Joseph who is only fourteen and already is a father of a girl named Jupiter. Joseph has known love and hate and fear, although he isn’t jaded considering how mature he acts and is. A lot about Joseph’s time at Stonewall is kept a mystery and it’s never explicitly stated what happens to him, but little is left to the imagination. Although the mystery of why Joseph attacked that teacher is never fully addressed, the overarching plot line out weighs that little detail. But watching Joseph blossom in school and become less reserved around his teacher’s and Jack’s family was beautifully and spectacular. There are more characters, but Jack and Joseph are definitely the most important to talk about.
Overall, Orbiting Jupiter is a phenomenal book and utterly astounding. I loved every page! A definite recommendation! But when you read it please consider what makes someone a good father since you will meet many.