.Approaching his 13th birthday, science-minded Albert Bloom fights off middle-school creeps while bracing for his father's health crisis. His astrologer girlfriend Lenora senses that Albert has even greater challenges than cosmic deep space before entering high school. Major changes, both spiritual and physical, hit him hard by the end of summer but Albert prevails.
Havis reintroduces readers to Albert in a personal and relatable way that doesn’t feel at all dated, giving a sympathetic view of the struggles of adolescence. As Albert studies for his bar mitzvah, he integrates the theology that baffles him into the science he understands, asking his bemused rabbi, “The laws of physics don’t apply to black holes, and maybe it’s the same about the miracles in the Torah?” He takes a similar approach to emotion as he copes with his father’s illness and death: “Hurt can last as long as time and as far as the universe can be measured.” These analogies are so deeply sincere that they never feel facile or jokey.
Through the more tense moments of the story, Albert’s relationships flourish on the page and give each character depth. Havis never falters as he puts real emotional and practical weight on coming of age. Pre-teen readers grappling with the challenges of adolescence, and especially those trying to find a way through grief, will find comfort in the busy yet reassuring thoughts of Albert Bloom.
Takeaway: Older children trying to understand life’s mysteries will love this sympathetic, complex take on coming of age.
Great for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish, Michelle Cuevas’s The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+