“The universe exploded with pain, a big bang that began in Yuri’s ganglia and expanded forever, launching galaxies of light behind his eyes.”
Yuri is a physics prodigy from Russia who has been recruited to help NASA in a seventeen-day mission to deflect and destroy an asteroid heading toward California. His unpublished work on antimatter is not only likely to win him a Nobel prize, but Yuri believes it’s the key to avoiding a global catastrophe. Unfortunately, the more experienced scientists disregard his claims, in part because of his age, and in part because he comes across as socially awkward and conceited.
Pressure is put on the whole NASA team as they weigh their options, but Yuri is able to blow off some steam with Dovie Collum, the daughter of a NASA janitor. The two are caught in a gentle romance, albeit one that never gains momentum, but it’s their dynamic that brings out the best in Yuri. When he was in Russia, his reasons for life were all science-based. However, after meeting the free-spirited Dovie and the rest of her hippie family, he grasps that there are other reasons to live that aren’t related to intelligence, and he finds in Dovie a life worth saving.
The writing is blunt with no frills or flowery language, but due to the suspenseful plotline, this book doesn’t necessarily need that type of prose. Nonetheless, the tension from the frankness of the writing is cooled with wit and one-liners. Yuri, Dovie, and Dovie’s wheelchair-bound brother Lennon spin in and out of each other’s orbits and are the main sources of humor-driven dialogue, but the scientists have some comical lines as well. They’re all multidimensional characters in the sense that they’re quirky yet empathetic. It’s easy to find qualities in each of them that reflect the people you are friends with.
At times you will have to suspend your disbelief in two ways: scientific and realistic. There’s a lot of scientific jargon related to the asteroid—all researched and accurate—and somehow, amongst this doom and gloom, Yuri is able to sneak out of the laboratory on numerous occasions.
The ending is bittersweet, and the book overall is a humorous and one-of-a-kind achievement from a debut author.
You can buy Kennedy’s coming-of-age novel here.
About the Author: Katie Kennedy
Katie Kennedy is currently a college history professor. Her debut novel, Learning to Swear in America (2016) and her second novel, What Goes Up (2017) were published by Bloomsbury. Both books exhibit a contemporary Young Adult/sci fi crossover.
She lives in Michigan’s upper Peninsula with her husband and two kids.
Currently, she's the Marketing Director and Web Editor for her University's student-run literary magazine, 'The Inkwell.' She's also a contributing writer for the magazine and has numerous poems published in their issues.