“This young author displays the insight of a writing talent well beyond her years.”
Following the success of her debut novel,Interrupted, 17-year-old Rachel Coker returns less than one year later with a coming-of-age tale set in late 1960s rural Georgia that revolves around a quirky (some might say dysfunctional) family. Sure to leave a lasting impression on readers young and old, Coker yet again crafts an intuitive story that displays maturity beyond her years.
In CHASING JUPITER (Zondervan; January 2013; $15.99), Coker brings to life the story of Scarlett Blaine, a 16-year-old growing up in a small southern town. As the middle child, Scarlett lives in the shadow of her older sister, Juli, dubbed a “hippie,” and her younger brother, Cliff, who is autistic.
Determined to be the perfect daughter, Scarlett recognizes the family’s stress and takes on household duties, looks after Cliff, and even keeps an eye on their peanut butter-obsessed grandfather, Grandpop Barley, who is showing signs of dementia.
Her routine changes when she and Cliff watch Neil Armstrong take his historic first steps on the moon during this summer of 1969. Young Cliff announces that he’d like to be an astronaut too. Specifically, he’d like to be the first person to fly to Jupiter.
To make her brother happy, Scarlett vows to spend the summer baking and selling peach pies to raise money for Cliff’s rocket, no matter how outrageous the idea seems. With the unexpected help of the local peach farmer’s son, Frank, whom Scarlett wishes was more than just her friend, the three begin plans to launch a rocket to Jupiter by summer’s end.
But what starts off as a bright, hopeful summer quickly spirals downward when a series of tragic events strike the Blaine family, forcing Scarlett to deal with painful realities about her world.
With her signature wistful style and elegant prose, Coker captures the cultural essence of the decade, weaving romance, southern charm, and historical events into an enthralling story that will touch the hearts of readers.
“[The year] 1969 was a very confusing time in America, spiritually speaking, and this story reflects a lot of the different movements going on,” Coker writes on her website.
Filled with humor and heartbreak, CHASING JUPITER is a must-read for fans of young adult, historical, and romantic fiction. Coker delivers yet another realistic portrait of a young American girl growing up in a decade filled with radical changes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Coker resides in Lanexa, Virginia with her parents, who’ve homeschooled her since she was a child, and two sisters. She is the author of 2012’s Interrupted: A Life Beyond Words. Coker has a passion for great books and has been surrounded by them all her life. Her gift for writing became apparent at the age of eleven, at which time her parents, who owned a Christian bookstore, signed her up for a year of lessons with a professional writing coach. www.rachelcoker.wordpress.com
What I thought:
I enjoyed Chasing Jupiter much more than Rachel's first book, Interrupted. The characters were all so interesting and the story moved right along at a trot, keeping me interested the whole time. I ended up reading the book in one sitting, which I hadn't planned on. ;)
Scarlett's relationship with her family members showed she had a caring heart, which I loved, and the way she treated her younger autistic brother Cliff with such compassion and empathy was very touching.
I really liked Frank, the boy who befriends Scarlett and Cliff and helps them build their peach-pie stand. His animal menagerie kept in the old bomb shelter was fun to read about - almost hints of Doctor Dolittle there - :D. And I liked reading about the way he and Scarlett eventually came to understand each other... nothing flaming-romance at all, just a gentle friendship.
The Christian message tastefully woven through this story was wonderful. Without giving anything away, I can tell you that Rachel showed her characters going through real struggles and convincingly realizing their need for the peace that only God's presence in your life can give.
I was slightly disappointed in the book's setting - I'm told it was set in rural Georgia in 1969, and I was excited about reading that because I live in rural Georgia and wanted to get a 'glimpse' of how it was back then... but I didn't get much. You can't really tell it's Georgia, besides the fact that there was a peach orchard nearby Scarlett's house. The historical detail and setting could have been flushed out a good deal more. But I really think the author's writing has gotten even better since her last story, and I am looking forward to what she'll do next. :D
Overall, Rachel Coker has written a second pleasant, interesting book that I enjoyed quite a bit and would recommend to any of my blog readers!
I was provided a free copy of this book for review by Zondervan, and I was not required to write a positive review. These are my own thoughts on the book.