This is one of the most heartwarming YA books I’ve ever read.
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I absolutely cannot stop raving to my husband about how wonderful this book is. (And believe it or not, this is a rare occurrence for me.) The main character is a 9-year-old boy, but the issues he faces are firmly in the YA genre (although precocious MG readers may enjoy this book, too). Set in April 1970, the storyline develops alongside real-world events such as the Apollo 13 launch and the dissolution of The Beatles. The real history is interwoven into the plot so well, that it feels like you’re actually there. So what is this fantastic book?
Apollo Dreams, by Syd Gilmore, is a delightful coming of age novel that’s filled with all the wonder of childhood— and all the pains of growing up. The main character, Billy, has an overactive imagination and an interest in space and other geeky things. This leaves him ostracized from the other children in his Catholic school and even leads to him getting bullied and picked on. As a former Catholic, all of the descriptions of Catholic culture and practice were spot on. And I appreciate how nobody in this book is ever black and white, good or bad. (Well, almost nobody. I’m dying to explain more, but no spoilers here. I’ve genuinely never had to struggle this hard to refrain from revealing an entire book’s plot. That’s how good this story is!)
The sections told by Billy are in first person, but the sections that outline his imaginary storylines are in third person. And there are also multiple sections that focus on other characters in close third person. The transitions are expertly handled, and the latter sections really provide a level of depth and insight into the plot that is impossible to get otherwise.
And this book also addresses many hot-button issues of the time: hippy culture, Vietnam war vets, post-segregation racism, and more. This is a beautiful tale, and I cannot recommend it enough. Please, please, please go read it now. You will be so glad you did.
Rating: 5 out of 5
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P.S.: There really isn’t another book in my review list that compares to this one. But if you’re looking for some YA that’s more futuristic and dystopian, read this review.