This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this, but I really love anything having to do with space travel. I think being an astronaut would be the most fascinating job in the world, and I would love to see the world from their point of view. That’s why I was so drawn to the cover of In The Quick by Kate Hope Day (available in stores on March 2). A genius female astronaut love story? Sign me up!
I had previously read Day’s debut novel If, Then and was disappointed, but I knew that I’d be willing to forget it and give her another chance because, space.
June is a brilliant but difficult girl with a gift for mechanical invention, who leaves home to begin a gruelling astronaut training program. Six years later, she has gained a coveted post as an engineer on a space station, but is haunted by the mystery of Inquiry, a revolutionary spacecraft powered by her beloved late uncle’s fuel cells. The spacecraft went missing when June was twelve years old, and while the rest of the world has forgotten them, June alone has evidence that makes her believe the crew is still alive.
She seeks out James, her uncle’s former protégée, also brilliant, also difficult, who has been trying to discover why Inquiry’s fuel cells failed. James and June forge an intense intellectual bond that becomes an electric attraction. But the love that develops between them as they work to solve the fuel cell’s fatal flaw threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to create—and any chance of bringing the Inquiry crew home alive.
Equal parts gripping narrative of scientific discovery and charged love story, In the Quick is an exploration of the strengths and limits of human ability in the face of hardship and the costs of human ingenuity. At its beating heart are June and James, whose love for each other is eclipsed only by their drive to conquer the challenges of space travel.
First of all, this is one of the most beautiful book covers I’ve ever seen. It’s bold, it’s pink, it’s effective, and I absolutely love it. Secondly, however, this is the second time I’ve been tricked by a Kate Hope Day synopsis. Based on how this book was presented, I was expected it to be a rescue mission and a love story… and this book is neither of those things. It’s more a coming of age story, and the focus is very much on June. Also, the book has no quotation marks. Do what you will with that information.
I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but the book is broken into four sections, and every section is very different from one another, so I thought I’d break down my thoughts per section.
Part 1 reminds me a lot of the first half of The Queen’s Gambit, which was one of the breakout streaming shows of last year. We’re introduced to June as a twelve-year-old mechanical genius with a difficult family life and we see how she struggles to adapt to the difficult astronaut training program. We’re seeing what makes June tick and how she’s different from her peers. I really loved how she was being portrayed here.
In part 2, June gets aged up and we see her on her first mission in space. This section reminded me of Away, another one of my favourite Netflix shows from last year. June’s now part of a team, and not on Earth anymore, and you read about their daily lives and the struggles they have to overcome together. This was probably my favourite part—I wished we got more of this.
Then in part 3, I felt there was a shift in the story, and it almost becomes a whole other book to me. It reminds me of Passengers, the Jennifer Lawrence/Chris Pratt movie from 2016, but there’s none of the cuteness. This is where we finally really get to know James, the love interest that was touted in the synopsis, but he’s neither likeable nor is there relationship really much of anything other than physical—and truthfully, they’re the only two people around (more or less), so why wouldn’t they hook up? I’m not sure they really ever said anything non-engineering to each other.
Finally in part 4, the very beginning reminded me of The Martian with Matt Damon, but slowly transforms into more of what part 2 was. I got more into it again and then, the book just ended. I remember looking down at one point and seeing I was at 98% and assuming that my ARC was missing the ending. But nope, it just ends. There was all of this plot culminating in a rescue mission… and we don’t get there. I was so disappointed.
That being said, I did really like June and there were sections of this book that I really enjoyed. But it’s not the love story we’re expecting based on the jacket copy, and overall the story falls a little flat. If you’re interested in any of the TV shows or movies mentioned above, or are really into how things mechanically work, there are bits and pieces of this book that you’ll really enjoy. But it’s a very slow burn, and a little all over the place.
“We’re humans, not machines. We have to adapt ourselves to space. Not it to us.” —Kate Hope Day, In The Quick
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the advanced copy, and to NASA on Unsplash for the featured photo of space.