Monday, June 23, 2008

Book Review: Cosmic, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Frank Cottrell Boyce has done the impossible: He's made me read a book that involves space travel.* Yeah, I'll admit it. I'm one of those readers who will not read books that involve spacesuits, space vehicles of any kind, and weightlessness--fiction or non fiction. All those details about Mach this and Light Year that make me, well, space out.

The hero of Cosmic--Boyce's third novel for young adult readers--is much taller than his eleven-year-old peers. In fact, Liam is mistaken for an adult because of his height and facial hair. When he hangs out with his friend from theater group, a celebrity-obsessed girl named Florida, they pass as a father and child. They can enter shops off-limit to kids without accompanying parents! When Liam is mistaken for his father because of some cellphone shenanigans and wins a once-in-a-lifetime trip on a top-secret space rocket housed in China, he convinces Florida to accompany him as his child.+

When Florida and Liam arrive to China, they find they are one of four father-child teams. Liam takes to his role as "Dad" with great success, especially when matched against the other competitive father-son teams. One Dad and his kid are all about making money, another pair is all about success (Dad writes self-help books about overcoming fear and being successful), and the third pair is comprised of father-son math geniuses. Compared to his competition, Liam is an ordinary Dad--nothing special, really--but his eleven-year-old sense of fun and his true compassion for all the kids, not just Florida, sets him above his middle-aged pack.

While Cosmic does involve a trip around and to the moon, in the end it's about being a kid who has to grow up too fast. Liam is forced into adulthood because of his size, but his space-traveling peers have grown up too quickly because of their success-oriented parents. A good Dad, like Liam's own--who is home in Liverpool thinking his son is on a trip to the Lake District--and what Liam himself becomes on the space trip, allows his kids to grow up at their own pace and to have a little fun along the way.

I listened to Cosmic via an audible download because I could not wait for its July 30th release in the States. While the audiobook is fantastic, I wish I had the paper copy to quote from: There are so many funny and bittersweet lines on growing up and on being a dad in Cosmic. Still, narrator Daniel Ryan does a bang-up job bringing Liam and Cosmic to life. If you have a long roadtrip ahead of you, this audiobook is highly recommended for all children (and their parents) ages eight and up. As Liam would say--this book is cosmic!
* Other than Frank Cottrell Boyce, only Ian McEwan, Kate Atkinson, and Philip Pullman could get me to read a book about space.
+ I'm sure there is a better description than "cellphone shenanigans," but, again, as much as I love technology, I sure hate to read about it.
Monica Edinger posted her review of Cosmic today too! You can find it here at educating alice.