See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng
Summary from Goodreads:
11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.
As an audio book this was amazing. I highly recommend listening to the book over reading it. I think that may be a first for me. Mostly I say this because the whole book is a series of recordings that Alex makes on his i-pod. When you read the book, there are notations for noises in the background and when others speak it is written more like a script. In the audiobook they just have the sounds and different actors for the other people speaking. I also really liked that they used an actual child for Alex’s voice. Usually you get an adult with a child-like voice. Kivlighan is an actor, and he does an amazing job here. All of the other readers do an excellent job as well. So if you are thinking of reading this book, seriously consider the audiobook.
The story itself is very good. I found Alex to be a likable child, although at times he seems way younger than his almost twelve years. At other times he is very mature but also somewhat naive . Not many 11 year olds would venture off to New Mexico on their own. I was worried myself that the trip would end bad, but I was happy that he met some wonderful adults along the way who helped to take care of him. He finds out some amazing things about the world on his journey and about himself as well.
At the beginning we suspect something is wrong with Alex’s mom, but it isn’t until the end of story that we find out how bad things were for him. It is then that we really begin to understand Alex. Throughout most of the book we hear about his much older brother Ronnie, who is also absent from Alex’s life. I didn’t like him very much, I thought he didn’t really care about his family. But there is a scene when Alex gets home between them that really highlighted their relationship and why he is the way he is, and I was able to forgive him for his neglect of Alex. Terra, their half-sister, is a wonderful character who shows a lot of growth along the journey as well.
I initially picked this book up, first because of all the buzz it was getting in the library journals and blogs and then because it is the June read for the Mock Newbery group on Goodreads. It wasn’t the story I was expecting though, it ended up so being so much more. Definitely a contender for the medal.