Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: Taking Off by Jenny Moss

Taking Off
Jenny Moss
Published: 2011
Young Adult Historical

Taking Off revolves around the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986 which carried the first civilian on board: teacher Christa McAuliffe. High schooler Annie lives in Clear Lake, TX, home of the NASA's training center, and meets Christa at a dinner hosted by one her friend's NASA-employed parents. Annie feels immediately inspired by the teacher's enthusiasm for life. Annie herself is shy and indecisive. She doesn't have plans for college but wants to be a poet, which for some reason terrifies her to admit to anyone, including her mother or her longtime boyfriend.

When the opportunity arises for Annie to see Christa's shuttle launch, she takes a road trip with her estranged father and his younger buddy (and potential new love interest -he's just over 20) to Cape Canaveral, FL to see the Challenger take off. What's most unsettling about this book is knowing the history going into it. Annie's adoration of Christa is believable, and it caused me to think of the all the students affected by Christa's death when the shuttle exploded - schools across the nation watched in horror as it happened. At times Annie's story felt a little incongruent with the severity of the event, and I wished it was told from the perspective of one of Christa's students (still fictional) for a more personal connection. The story is really Annie's self-discovery with the Challenger mission serving as a framework historical setting.

I found Taking Off from a rather complex library search on historical fiction from mid-century on related to Texas (specific huh? I'm writing a similar work and wanted to see what's out there). The book has a mix of strengths and weaknesses; Annie is 17 but she felt younger to me. Certainly girls can be shy and lacking self-awareness as an older teen, but it almost felt like she should've been 14 with a lot of years left to grow. Some of the dialogue didn't ring true, like the historical setting was pushed into the narrative a bit too much at times. This is worth checking out if the subject interests you.


  1. Not sure about this one. Perhaps a library pick.

  2. I hadn't heard of this, but it's a really intriguing concept. Thanks for sharing!


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