BookBrowse Reviews All the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse

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All the Major Constellations

by Pratima Cranse

All the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse X
All the Major Constellations by Pratima Cranse
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    Nov 2015, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Young adult debut All the Major Constellations explores questions of identity, sexuality, and spirituality.

Pratima Cranse's excellent book went with me to lunch, to the doctor's office, to the kitchen counter as I prepared dinner; its pages spattered with everything from coffee to marinara sauce. Part of it was being able to so easily slip into the indelible memories of a certain phase of adolescence. The rest was being able to pick up on themes that give 17-year-old Andrew Genter's life a point of view I hadn't thought about before. And isn't it the best thing in the world when you suddenly see something through completely different eyes?

It's the spring of 1995 as Andrew and his best friends Sara and Marcia are getting ready for their high school graduation. Marcia is preparing her class valedictorian speech; Sara, one of the hottest girls in school, is primping; and Andrew is being a guy – that is, he's feeling humbled by Marcia's brains and intimidated by Sara's casual attitude about her beauty, but overall at ease with where he is, friend wise. While longtime friend Marcia grounds him, thanks to Sara, "his identity had been transformed from Brian Genter's geeky little brother to that of a quiet, smart guy…"

You see, his choice of opposite sex best friends is no accident. It is the direct (though likely unconscious) result of growing up with an abusive alcoholic father and in the shadow of an older brother with seemingly superhuman athletic skills, an enormous ego, and a temper to match. His mother's submissiveness to her overpowering husband and son has only alienated Andrew from his family even more. Sara and Marcia are polar opposites to the people who've brought Andrew grief his whole life. As friends, the three compliment each other, chide each other, and cushion each other's falls:

Their little triad was disturbingly like a family, Andrew mused. He and Sara hovered protectively over Marcia, who was practically parentless, Andrew was like a brother figure to both, and Sara was instinctually mothering. Andrew had never sought friendships beyond the trio, nor had they. They were a self-contained unit, the only members of a gang of three, and they needed no one else.

Then Sara is involved in an automobile accident that leaves her in a coma. And Andrew is suddenly cut loose from his moorings as Marcia – already accepted into a university pre-med program – drops everything to be at Sara's side. The entire situation thrusts him into a state of existential disarray. He can think of nothing to do to help either Sara or Marcia. Worse, Brian is home from college for the summer, sucking all the oxygen out of the family home with his gargantuan persona. And just when Andrew feels the most vulnerable, the girl on whom he has borne an all-consuming crush steps in to salve the gash in his psyche. Seemingly out of nowhere, lovely, elusive Laura, member of an indeterminate fundamentalist evangelist religious sect, hands him a slip of paper with her phone number on it.

Andrew's jumble of conflicting, churning desires are so true, so painfully reminiscent of the very worst part of adolescence, it is impossible to turn away from him. Because by this time you've gotten to know and like him an awful lot. So if you've been through those years, you need to know how it all works out for him. And if you haven't yet experienced this phase of growing up, well, your need to know it's going to be okay is likely to be even more visceral.

Andrew needs friends, and Laura's church youth group – a guy named John, in particular – has potential, but leaves him somehow wanting. "John's empathy was like a wobbly bridge forever stretching but never quite reaching Andrew."

He also wants to be close to Laura and this may be his only chance to date her. But then all of it – friends, romance – hinges upon accepting a God Andrew's never recognized or needed. Even so, the concept of faith fascinates him. "To Andrew Laura's faith meant that she was capable of an unwavering devotion to an idea, or a set of ideas, whereas he felt devotion only to physical things, real things, things you could touch, like Laura."

So when he has a couple of brief "mystical" experiences in her presence he wonders if they are religious and God-inspired? Or are they biological? – he's dehydrated, hungry and sleep-deprived, after all. Maybe they're hormonal? Or possibly some weird combination of the three?

He works it out, and you just know that Andrew Genter grows up to be an awesome adult. Thank you, Pratima Cranse, for introducing him to us.

Reviewed by Donna Chavez

This review is from the November 4, 2015 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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