I read Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt in one day. This book pulled me in with its simple, straightforward narration. The writing was simple, but told a great story with so many touches that I really appreciated (to name a couple- the farm setting, Jack’s mental tally of Joseph’s smiles).
Jack is a sixth grader whose parents make the decision to foster eighth grader Joseph. Joseph is a very toughened individual who has been through a lot. He is still going through some tough situations adapting to the bullies at his new school. Jack and his parents are the heroes of this story to me. They are willing to take a chance and to stand up for this lost, angry boy. They earn Joseph’s trust and love which is why he decides to disclose his background to them.
Joseph’s dad is abusive. He met a girl (Maddie) who became the love of his life, but her parents were never aware of the relationship. Her parents are very wealthy and never around when Joseph would visit. She became pregnant which is when her parents took notice (obviously!) and completely shut Joseph out.
SPOILERS AHEAD! Maddie dies during childbirth and their daughter, Jupiter, will be put up for adoption. Joseph’s driving mission is to find his daughter. Joseph does eventually locate and maintain communication with Jupiter’s adoptive parents through letters. Meanwhile, his dad is causing quite a bit of trouble trying to get Joseph back. I’d like to say this book ended on a happy note after this, but it didn’t. In fact, the ending made me so angry!
This book is controversial because of Joseph’s age as a father. For me, it is tough to read about a kid going through life events that he should not need to worry about at this age. This book will bring out a variety of emotions and reactions in its readers. I know it did for me.