|In The Quick / Kate Hope Day|
NY: Random House, c2021
Another quick random pick for me that turned out to be a wonderful read! This book follows young June who, at age twelve, is sent to science school even though she's two years younger than the youngest students. This is because her aunt and cousin can't manage her strangeness and anger after her beloved uncle dies.
June is obsessed with space, and particularly the fuel cell that her uncle was working on when he died. She keeps trying to reconnect with the grad students who were working on it with her uncle, hoping to solve the issue and find out what happened to the exploration team who were lost in space when their power failed. This drives her life, from taking on astronaut training at a young age, to the second half of the book when she's a young adult and now heading into space for a mission herself.
I really enjoyed the first half, learning about serious and obsessive young June. There are comparisons to Jane Eyre and The Martian out there, but I only see vague connections. I was more reminded of Beth Harmon from The Queen's Gambit as a young girl -- that sense of being different, not fitting in, and being obsessed with numbers. I felt for her as a misfit, and as a genius who is already intellectually past the others she's at school with.
The second half of the book wasn't as successful for me. June heads out to a mission on the "pink planet", a small supply planet that her uncle always called her planet. She ends up working alongside the exact grad students who were her uncle's compatriots. And then when she gets to the pink planet, James, who was one of those students, is basically there alone, and they fall into a strange dynamic. They start a relationship of sorts but it feels forced -- the blurb on the book makes this sound like the key element of the book, and a great romance, but I don't think it's that at all. It's a way for June to feel closer to her uncle's work; James is only appealing because of his past connection to those years June felt safe and loved -- otherwise, he's really kind of a jerk, and that does eventually come out.
June finds that she can't let her romantic relationship interfere with her lifelong obsession with continuing her uncle's work. In the end, she promises to come back to James, but gets on another ship for a two year mission. I was kind of cheering ;)
There are a few things about it that didn't work as well -- don't dig into the science too deeply, and just go with the near future setting, don't think too hard about where that extra planet comes from. But as a story of a young girl's growth, and how her obsession with her uncle's work and her own skill pays off in the end, I loved it. Read this really quickly and found it absorbing. Really great find.