In the not-too-distant future, Ryann is a high school senior struggling to help her non-verbal younger brother James cope after the tragic loss of their parents while also caring for James’ infant son. She’s supported by her friends, a group of misfits each with their own issues whom Ryann has gradually “adopted” over time.
Alexandria is a guarded, crusty new kid in town who immediately butts heads with Ryann. After a tragic fall leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, Ryann tries to make amends, and ends up helping her with her nightly ritual: sitting up on her roof with a radio trying to pick up signals from space. It seems like a very odd hobby, until Ryann learns that Alexandria’s mother was a Uninaut: a volunteer for a lifelong, deep space journey funded by a private company.
As Ryann and Alexandria’s friendship deepens and widens to include Ryann’s whole group, this found family begins to search for the answers that Alexandria has been craving her entire life, about why her mother left and why the messages that were coming back from her have stopped. There’s suspense and action, but the novel is really focused on the developing friendship, then relationship between Ryann and Alexandria.
The love story is realistically plotted and developed and is depicted as evolving naturally, rather than a love-at-first-sight scenario, which I appreciated. But the thing I really, really loved about this book is that there isn’t just one queer relationship or character. There are multiple sexualities and types of families and relationships depicted – orphan Ryann is mostly attracted to girls, Tomas is mostly attracted to guys, Blake has two dads, Ahmed’s parents are a polyamorous M-M-F trio… Shannon is really the odd one out, with two hetero, evangelical Christian parents.
Among the friend group, all of this is treated pretty matter-of-factly. There is tension between the characters from time to time, but aside from Ryann wondering how to find out if Alexandria is into girls, none of it is tied to any big coming-out reveal. Ahmed is a bit nervous when he has to explain his unconventional family to Alexandria, but to his friends, Mr. Rossi, Mr. Bateman, and Mrs. Rossi are just Ahmed’s parents.
Written in short micro chapters like story bursts, The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum is an engaging story about love. The sci-fi plot occasionally plods when it has to take a backseat to the relationships between the characters, but it’s a fair trade that pays off with a deft and delicate portrayal of the many ways that people form relationships and families. I’d recommend it to any reader who enjoys young adult fiction.