The release day for my sixth book, At the Edge of the Universe, was on Tuesday. Six. In my wildest dreams, I rarely thought I’d publish one book, and now my sixth is out there in the world. It’s so wild. And even more wild is that I’ve been out in LA and Seattle and San Francisco meeting readers and book sellers to support it, all of whom have been so generous with their time and gracious to a nobody like me. It’s honestly been such an amazing experience.
The early trade reviews for AtEotU have just been so positive that my Grinchy heart has grown to nearly exploding. Here’s a quick roundup.
Kirkus gave it a starred review and called it “An earthy, existential coming-of-age gem.”
SLJ said, “Readers will feel Ozzie’s nearly radiant pain, but Universe isn’t singularly focused. All of the characters are neatly fleshed out and have their own personal anguish: Lua deals with being gender-fluid in a small town; Dustin, whose father loses the family fortune, has to confront a future where his dreams cannot be attained; and Ozzie’s trials serve as a lens through which readers can examine the scope of human experience in this (shrinking) universe.”
From Booklist’s review: “Wrenching and thought provoking, Hutchinson has penned another winner.”
Publisher’s Weekly also gave it a star and said, “Ozzie’s friends remind him that the world doesn’t revolve around him, but Hutchinson playfully disagrees, turning the literal shrinking of the universe into a smart metaphor for Ozzie’s introversion and alienation.”
BCCB said, “Hutchinson ably keeps the tone sardonic and wry, allowing for characters to experience devastation with a clear perspective that all will be survived, and life still holds mysteries and joys.”
And Shelf Awareness gave AtEotU its third star saying, “Hutchinson’s authentic characters, exploring their gender and sexuality with equal parts confusion and confidence, will resonate with many teens who no longer see their identity as binary or unchanging. Ozzie’s story may be fantastical, but its emotional honesty renders the whole complicated story believable, and readers will flock to its central truths.”
Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for better reviews. Every time I put something out into the world, I worry. I worry it’s not good enough. I worry I’m not good enough. I worry readers won’t see the same things I do in the story. And, of course, that’s all part of making art. We all have our own experiences and view art through the lens of those experiences. Someone who’s never experienced depression might find reading about it tedious because their experiences differ from someone who’s lived with it their whole life. So it’s incredibly gratifying to know Ozzie’s story is resonating with readers.
At A Great Good Place for Books last night, Alex Green, who moderated two panels I was on at the Bay Area Book Festival last year, came to talk (because he’s awesome and you should check him out and I can’t thank him enough for being there and saving me from my own awkwardness) and we discussed how AtEotU relates to the current issues we’re dealing with in regards to truth and what constitutes truth and how even objective reality can be altered and shaped by our own personal truths. And I got to talk to a brilliant teen named Rowen, who wants to be a surgeon or an architect or a cosmological scientist or an artist (or all of them at the same time!), about quantum physics and the nature of reality and whether we’re living in a simulated world or not. I also got to spread my orange juice theory of the nature of truth and reality.
Sometimes I hear people dismiss YA lit as somehow inferior to adult lit. They claim that it’s watered down and not intelligent. But I disagree. I love ideas. I love filling books with ideas on everything from the quality and value of Hemingway’s writing to discussions on the nature of reality and philosophical musings of truth. I bring up the Allegory of the Cave from Plato’s Republic and there are no blank stares. Teen readers are fucking brilliant. They’re totally willing to dive into the mud and tear apart ideas with me. And that’s what I hoped At the Edge of the Universe would be. A book of ideas. Ideas and characters and emotions that people would talk about. I want people to read it and walk away with the desire to challenge their own world. I want them to explore their own ideas of truth and reality and gender and mental illness, and to challenge my ideas as well. There’s nothing more gratifying than having a reader challenge something I’ve written and show me a new way to think about and see the world.
I’m rambling. It’s a rambling kind of day. This whole tour has been such an amazing experience that I can hardly contain myself. But I don’t want to ramble too much, so I’ll cut it short here. If you haven’t picked up At the Edge of the Universe, I hope you will. If you have and you’ve read it, I hope you’ll talk, not just about the book, but about the ideas in it. I hope you’ll look around your own world and challenge what you see. Because no matter how small the universe may seem sometimes, ideas are infinite and you are amazing.