Li, Christina. Clues to the Universe. Fiction. HarperCollins/Quill Tree, 01/2021. 304pp. $17.99. 978-0-06-300-888-5. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 3-7.
In this #OwnVoices middle grade debut, Christina Li creates two very likable seventh grade protagonists. Ro is a biracial (Chinese and white), NASA-loving science and math whiz whose world was upended when her father was killed by a drunk driver. Benji is a white boy searching for his absent father and returning to school without his best friend who has moved across the country. Together, they find a way to join forces and support each other to take risks, build a rocket, and confront a school bully. The story is told in alternating first-person chapters. Set in 1984 in Sacramento, the lack of internet and cell phones is refreshing and adds to the mystery—how do you find someone once they’ve moved away and changed phone numbers? This book has California-specific content.
Rachael Reiley, San Jose State University, iSchool