by Gary D. Schmidt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 183 pgs. Young Adult
There are several improbabilities in Gary Schmidt's latest novel for teens, but they are all swallowed up by the tender profundity of this story of a very young man who has become a father, but who has never seen his daughter and does not know where she is. Released from a juvenile detention center into the foster care of the Hurd family, Joseph takes a long time to warm up, but he does, to 12-year old Jack, Jack's patient and loving parents, and to Rosie the cow, who loves him instantly. But Joseph cannot be happy until he knows where his daughter Jupiter is, and sees her for himself. In the meantime, he is treated unkindly as school by teachers and students, but embraced by other teachers who discover his skill in mathematics, encourage his thoughtful choice of reading matter, and who give him responsibility for helping younger students. Joseph warms to his new home and family, resists the demands of his brutal father, but leaves when he gets a lead on his daughter's whereabouts. Gary Schmidt once explained that what interests him in his writing is that point when a boy decides either to become a man, or to stay a child forever. Orbiting Jupiter explores precisely that moment in two boys' lives: Joseph's and Jack's. The ending is bitter, but also sweet. Joseph's story can be read in about an hour, but it will stay with you for years to come.