Rocket Ship, by C. O. B., is a moving story that offers profound insight into the world we live in now. While the story revolves around two boys who want to build a rocket ship to escape this world and their problems, the story isn’t so much science fiction as social commentary.
Lincoln and Gary, two best friends, come from different backgrounds. Gary’s parents are wealthy, while Lincoln’s father is in prison and his mother is an alcoholic. Yet, both are outsiders at their school and when Gary moves next door to Lincoln, the two become close friends.
Neither of the boys have a happy home life. Lincoln is not only raising himself, but taking care of his mother who has given up on life after Lincoln’s father is sent away. Gary’s parents bicker constantly and Gary’s father is overbearing and forced his wife into a “real” job. She wanted to be an artist. According to the father the mother has:
wasted four years getting a degree, only to spend another two to come to the conclusion that she needed to go back to school for something more useful, a real education for a real job. Six years of her life wasted, all because she couldn’t focus on reality.
Gary, also an artist, feels pressured by his father to succeed and to forget about silly things like art, that more than likely won’t pay the bills.
Each night, after their parents go to bed, Lincoln and Gary hang out and stare at the stars. For them the night sky and stars offer them hope that there’s more out there.
“What do you see?”
“Yeah? And what’s on the other side?”
This answer waits a few more seconds.
“Better— something… better.”
Soon the two friends decide to build a rocket ship to leave this world behind and to find happiness. Other kids find out about their plan and they want to join them. The kids who want to escape have their own reasons, but Lincoln and Gary realize that their reasons are just as important and that they are just as unhappy. The best friends become the leaders of the group. At one point, Lincoln states:
We’re just… going somewhere better. You need to know that, you have to understand that it’s what you really need for yourself. In order for all of us to make it, you need to believe that leaving is the only way things will get better.
While the title of the book suggests it will be filled with action and adventure, this story is more about friendships, hopes, dreams, and searching for happiness. And determination. Lincoln and Gary face one hardship after another, but these roadblocks don’t dampen their spirit. When it comes time to make sacrifices, the leaders make difficult decisions for the good of the whole.
The friendship between Lincoln and Gary is inspiring. Neither can turn to their families for the support they want and desire. When they let the other children join them, they create a different sort of family. One that supports each other and one that takes care of each other.
The one puzzling aspect of this novel is determining the intended audience. On several occasions it feels like the purpose of this book is not to tell a story, but to critique the world we live in. The story is about children and is recommended for readers ages 14 and up. Yet, the tone of the novel is geared toward more mature minds. This doesn’t mean that young readers can’t grasp and follow the author’s intent. In today’s world, children are exposed to inequalities, fear, and unfairness. The question is: will they take to this tale that is more like a lecture and less like a story? At times, the children speak and act like children. Then at other times, they sound much older and philosophical. For example, at one point Lincoln makes this speech:
We’ve all become so wrong that some days, there’s no telling us apart. Who did that horrible thing? Them or us? This world has made us so wrong that some days, it’s us. Sometimes, we are them. We’re the ones who did that horrible thing that everyone is now talking about. Look, all I’m saying is that there used to be a time when everyone knew what the right thing was, and everybody got behind that right thing . Now, when a disaster happens, instead of helping one another, all we do is try to find ways to benefit from the disaster.
It’s difficult imagining a seventh grader discussing world problems this way. They may feel this way, but would most children be able to articulate it? Would most adults?
The book is well written and highlights that too many children are abused, mistreated, ignored, and are unwanted. The author shows the true damage we as a society are inflicting on the young. Rocket Ship is a powerful book and will make readers think. Maybe the next time one of us sees an injustice, we’ll stop and think about standing up for what’s right and not just going with the flow of the mighty. This book stands up for the little guy and shows that heroes come in all sizes and shapes.
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