Title: Chasing the Milky Way
Author: Erin E. Moulton
Synopsis: Lucy Peevy has a dream–to get out of the trailer park she lives in and become a famous scientist. And she’s already figured out how to do that: Build a robot that will win a cash prize at the BotBlock competition and save it for college. But when you’ve got a mama who doesn’t always take her meds, it’s not easy to achieve those goals. Especially when Lucy’s mama takes her, her baby sister Izzy, and their neighbor Cam away in her convertible, bound for parts unknown. But Lucy, Izzy and Cam are good at sticking together, and even better at solving problems. But not all problems have the best solutions, and Lucy and Izzy must face the one thing they’re scared of even more than Mama’s moods: living without her at all.
Huge thank you to Razorbill CA/Philomel for this ARC!
Chasing the Milky Way may be one of the best stories I’ve read that deals with mental illness as a prime focus. The book follows Lucy, a budding scientist at the age of twelve, who has to grow up a little faster than the other kids because her Mama isn’t quite all there. Refusing to take her meds, and being… all out frustrating, Lucy questions what it means to dream, when her reality is something she is struggling to change where and now.
I loved reading about the relationship between Lucy, Mama and Grammie. Throughout the books you’d get these italicized bits that really looked deeper into how these three woman all co-existed, especially Grammie and Mama in the treatment and raising of Lucy. There’s so much emotion within these sections, especially the fighting and aggression. Lucy functions as an observer throughout the text, and she’s watching her Mama come a part at the seams. It’s heartbreaking and raw, and I think many of us understand and have been in this kind of situation — sometimes you just never know how you should respond.
I think what I equally loved about this book is the maturity aspect. This is a middle grade novel, but it’s one that feels light-years ahead in terms of the overall themes and concepts. Lucy is very intelligent and mature for her age, yet she responds in the way any twelve year old might when encountering mental illness — she attempts to rationalize it. But coming to terms with mental illness is never that simple, and I love how Lucy tries to find logic in her situation when there’s no easy way to respond to it. All her feelings are so real and that made the connection is.
And then there’s Mama. So frustrating and aggravating, and even hateful at times. There were moments where I should have hated her — hated the treatment of her daughter and mother, and yet I couldn’t. I just couldn’t hate this woman with good conscience because of her desperation — her need for help but her lack of acceptance and will to find it. There are so many people like this, and you always want to hope that they do get the help they rightfully need, but it’s not as simple as we think it is, and the book does an amazing job illustrating that point.
I was captured by Chasing the Milky Way from the very first page. Erin E. Moulton has crafted some wonderfully real characters who feel so human in how they respond to the world around them. Lucy is the kind of dreamer where you want all the good to happen to her, and the ending is so bitter sweet that when you get there, there’s almost this sigh of relief. This is one emotionally little book and one middle grade read that definitely should be on your radar.
Also Lucy wants to build robots. BEST CHILD EVER.