When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:
- Joseph almost killed a teacher.
- He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.
- He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her.
What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl.
Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help.
But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.
This tender, heartbreaking novel is Gary D. Schmidt at his best.
Coalition Staff Member Review
“Orbiting Jupiter” by Gary D. Schmidt is a book that is written for a young adult audience, but certainly can be enjoyed by adults. Reading it as an adult reminded me of the importance of not forgetting what it is like to think like a teenager. We learn, as parents of teens, that, as the adolescent brain is developing, the teenagers will respond more with their emotions than with their reason. And this book did a great job of exploring life, complex relationships, love, family, and friendship through the lens of young teens.
The story itself is about two young men, one a foster son and a birth father of a daughter who is in the foster care system, and the other the biological son in the foster home. Through the story, the boys learn how to trust each other, understand each other, and how to “have each other’s back,” as the boys say in the book. The story is heartwarming as the boys learn to become a family. Even though there appears to be disapproval of neighbors and some school staff, the boys continue to be there for each other.
Although the author does a wonderful job of exploring some of the complexities of the relationships within a foster family, in my view, he does a disservice to the story and to the foster community by not exploring the complexities of the birth father in the story. If my teenage foster children read it, I would certainly want to have a discussion about birth parents and how we can honor and love birth parents even if they have made some major mistakes.
As the story ends, we are reminded of the sometimes temporary nature of foster care, but also that the love that occurs in a family is very real, and very permanent no matter how long a family is together.
Author: Gary D. Schmidt