Review: See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan by Jack Cheng

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

When a kid tells you a story, you can’t help but laugh at the funny words they use to describe things. It’s a different world for a kid. From the very first page, Jack Cheng can make you see the world through the eyes of a weird little eleven-year-old boy named Alex Petroski in his book See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan as if he is the boy himself and you are the older person listening to the weirdest story of your life and despite yourself, you can’t have enough of it. This book was quite an adventure.

Imagine you were an alien from space and you just landed on Earth. You know nothing of Earth, but to learn and teach your space people, you have found a Golden iPod with a bunch of recordings made by one Alex Petroski, an eleven-year-old boy living in Rockview, Colorado with his mother. The story you will hear is that of a boy who traveled alone with his dog to New Mexico so that he could launch a rocket into space along with his iPod. Only, the rocket didn’t make it that far. His initial mission failed, he is about to take on a new one with his new friends Steve and Zed. Their destination? Las Vegas. To find Alex’s father. Once there, the unexpected happens. Alex’s best friend Carl Sagan, his dog, goes missing.

Alex might be eleven years and eight months old, but, quick to tell you so, he is thirteen in responsibility years. Don’t worry if you don’t know what the bleep launchurdles and rain curtains are because Alex will explain it. He’s full of information and cosmology jokes that, although it takes a few seconds before you get the joke, makes you laugh out loud. Lacey, a girl Alex meets on his initial train ride to launch his rocket into space, thinks he’s wearing “old person clothes”, but he’s not. His hero, Dr. Carl Sagan, the man whom he named his dog after, wore the same kind of jacket he’s wearing.

Alex, prone to “hurricane” whenever the “clouds” in his head becomes too much, is a likable little man. He really makes you laugh a lot. Even when he looses his temper. Steve. You can tell from the get go that something is fishy with the guy. Or at least that he’s hiding something from Alex and Zed by how obvious it is in Las Vegas. He’s the guy that causes Carl Sagan to go missing. You know what Alex does, likable little man that he is? He throws a Golden iPod Steve’s way. Take that Mr. I-don’t-have-time-for-dogs-because-I-have-more-important-stuff-to-in-Las-Vegas.

It takes a while before readers are left with a full idea as to what Carl Sagan is like. You can tell that he is a shy dog in the beginning though. While Alex makes his way to New Mexico via train, Carl Sagan hides under a seat when Alex has a conversation with Lacey. From Alex, you’ll learn that “you need to feed him natural turkey-based gluten – and dairy-free kibble, he has a sensitive digestive system.”

The world can be exciting for an eleven year old and the author has a masterful way of making you see just how. For Alex, there are no answers at all as to where Carl Sagan might be, but he finds other things along the way. One, he finds that his theory that his father has been living in Las Vegas with amnesia is wrong. Two, he finds Terra, his half-sister. Terra is pretty, loves the water, doesn’t know how to keep her apartment tidy, and can’t be in the same space as her mother for two minutes without loosing it. Alex can’t wait for Terra to meet his older brother Ronnie. Knowing more or less what Ronnie is like, I couldn’t wait to see what that collision was going to be like either.

I think Terra, who is nineteen years old and of course a legal adult, needed Alex to find her. I would like to tell you that Alex has a responsible older sister who can teach him many important things besides what a fling is, but I’ll have to disappoint you there. Alex, on the other hand, being “thirteen in responsibility years” and all is the guy who teaches Terra all about how to properly wash her laundry and to stop texting while driving. Really smart guy. Knows what a tesseract is when I sure as bleep didn’t.

Of Steve and Zed, Steve is the least likable friend of Alex’s because, just like Alex’s older brother, he is business minded and practical whereas Zed, an Asian man who breaks his “Vow of Silence” to comfort Alex soon after Carl Sagan goes missing, enjoys listening to Alex talk. Sometimes I do feel for the guy though. He is smitten with Terra, but she is a gal who plays hard to get. “Steve asks Terra does she need help putting on sunscreen and she said, Alex can help me, isn’t that right? And I said that’s right and I helped her.” Man, while playing “waterdodgeball”, Steve up and sends a ball flying into Terra’s mouth. Poor guy.

There is nothing I don’t really like about this book. The transcript structure of this book has its own way of delivering Alex’s story. The dialogue is different. No quotation marks. Limited dialogue tags. Half the time Alex says what characters are saying because he is, after all, speaking into an iPod to teach future aliens about what Planet Earth was like.

I like the lessons Jack Cheng tries to teach young readers through this story of a young boy making recordings for aliens while searching for his lost dog and making new friends along the way. The importance of family and not allowing small things to come between each other is one. A second, that having a mission in life, even if its something that everyone else normally wouldn’t do, is absolutely worth seeing through. A third, that the universe sometimes bends to give you not what you’re looking for, but what you need. A brilliant novel. Well thought out. Recommended to weird and strange young minds all around the world.

Free paperback received from Penguin Random House SA. 

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Penguin
Date Published: March 2, 2017
Genre: Family Life
Pages: 322
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