There is a lot of hype surrounding New Hampshire debut novelist, Pratima Cranse and her new book, All the Major Constellations. Publishers Weekly wrote “Cranse’s compassionate debut astutely conveys the joys, heartaches, and angst of coming-of-age”. Like many other young adult fiction books, the story explores the themes of self-discovery and friendship. So what exactly makes this book any different than other books in its genre?
Perhaps it is the point of view that seventeen- year-old Andrew has to offer. At such a young age, he is experiencing a lot of things all at once. For starters, he no longer has the companionship of his two best friends, Sara and Marcia to rely on. After a terrible car accident leaves Sara in a coma, Marcia spends her days by Sara’s bed side as her proxy. As their senior year of high school has finished and college is approaching, all Andrew really wanted was a fresh start to his life. But now he feels more alone and lost than ever. To make things worse, his antagonizing jock brother, Brian has come home for the summer and is ready to make Andrew’s life a living hell.
With no one to turn to, Andrew’s mind is consumed with obsessive thoughts of Laura, a beautiful Christian girl who reaches out to him and offers him guidance and support. Andrew realizes that her sudden interest in him is most likely sparked by his own grief and vulnerability, and that her only motive is to convert him to her faith. Despite his own suspicions about Laura’s true motivations, Andrew still wants her more than anything else. After Andrew is introduced to Laura’s youth group, he is immediately intrigued by their beliefs and faith. It gives him a restored sense of hope and makes him want to explore his own spirituality, something that until as of late, had never really crossed his mind.
“One part of him wanted to surrender to this feeling of endless light, a feeling that came from within. Another part of him floated above and watched himself on the mountaintop. There’s Andrew, Andrew thought. That’s me down there.” As Andrew tries his hardest to embrace his faith, he is still confused about what he believes and struggles to wrap his head around it all. He finds himself increasingly frustrated about Laura and his unspoken but obvious feelings towards her. All the while, he is stricken with persistent guilt and resentment towards Sarah’s accident.
But Andrew is not the only one with personal struggles. Even a group of devoted fundamentalist Christians have secrets and stories of their own; ones that they are afraid to speak of. John, for example, is ashamed of his own sexuality because his faith condemns it. All the Major Constellations so deeply resonates with its readers, reflecting that perhaps the greatest war we must fight is the one that lies within ourselves. Accepting ourselves and who we are could very well be life’s greatest challenge and longest journey.
Sometimes humorous but always honest, All the Major Constellations allows readers to examine themselves and come to terms with their own struggles and insecurities, accepting them for all that they are worth. Pratima Cranse’s novel may be a quick read, but it is one that will linger in your mind long after it is finished.