Book Reviews,  Coming of Age,  Middle Grade,  Science Fiction

Book Review: One Giant Leap

One Giant LeapOne Giant Leap by Ben Gartner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I’m pretty sure I’m about to die in space. And I just turned twelve and a half.” is how Finley “Fin” Scott introduces himself in the first line of Ben Gartner’s One Giant Leap. After that startling statement, “Fin” Scott’s situation gets even worse. Ironically, it looks like his story will end, just as it’s getting started. But then, Fin decides to speak directly to the reader, while he waits to die in space, and the story of how he got into this predicament begins to unfold.

Fin, along with three other kids, has won a trip to the International Space Station and a jaunt to the Gateway outpost orbiting the moon. They’d each sent an application to the StellarKid Project, along with their proposals for new equipment or technology that might be helpful for space travel. Fin’s invention is a device called SAFER, and you’ll learn more about that as his story unfolds.

In fact, you’ll learn a lot about the details of traveling to and working in space, along with plenty of interesting trivia spanning the entire history of space travel. And you won’t mind it a bit! This is not a dry, dusty, academic textbook. Fin’s adventures are vibrant, breathtaking, and occasionally heartbreaking. Most of all though, they seem real. You’ll feel as if you’re traveling along with him as he shares with us everything he sees, touches, and experiences. But beyond that, we learn how this experience makes him feel. He shares his emotional responses to extraordinary situations. And that’s important, because you see, Fin’s not just going to space – he’s also running away from big problems back home. His mom’s in the hospital recovering from a horrific accident. As the story progresses, Fin reveals more and more details about what happened to her. Fin isn’t dealing with the situation well, and sees this space trip as a chance to get away from unbearable family issues. But the story isn’t just about Fin. Each of the other three kid astronauts have their own reasons for wanting to win this trip.

Will Fin die in space? Will his mom be okay? Will he ever run out of terrible space-pun jokes? How will this adventure change the kids? How will the kids change space travel? As the story plays out, we learn the answers to these questions. Not all at once, but in a natural progression as the characters experience growth and change, so far away from home.

I found the story to be plausible, entertaining, and well-paced. It’s absolutely stuffed to the rafters with interesting details about space travel. Character development is realistic – readers can easily bond with the kids and admire the adults. The book is unputdownable. I judge books by what I call my ‘what happens next’ factor. Fin and his traveling pals are constantly leaping from one intense situation to another, in a way that makes it impossible for the reader to predict the outcome. I give One Giant Leap a What-Happens-Next score of twenty… on a scale of ten!

My thanks to author Ben Gartner, Crescent Vista Press, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital review copy of this book.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.


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