Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown 2014
This is a middle grade level book but fun and very informative about space.
Arty, real name Arcturus Betelgeuse Chambers, is in love with space and hopes to discover life on Mars. He has an older sister, Vega, who is in love with Bacteria (real name Bacterium) and younger sister Cassie, real name Cassiopeia, who is a cheerleader and doesn’t want her past love of space made public to her cool friends.
When his dad loses his job at the observatory, the family has to move from Missouri to Los Vegas, and no one takes the news well. The book begins with his job loss and ends with the move. It covers all the anxiety and anger in between.
Arty spends time with his best friends Tripp and Priya who also support his idea of finding life on Mars. They also worry that the new neighbor is a zombie or vampire when they see him sneaking into the woods every night.
When his parents go to Los Vegas to house hunt, Arty has to spend the night at the zombie neighbor’s house who has a secret locked room. Arty discovers the neighbor, Cash, was a real astronaut and begins an unlikely friendship to learn everything he can about space from him. They build Huey to send messages to Mars, but Cash has cancer and goes to the hospital days before Arty plans to move. The ending is heartbreaking and yet uplifting – perfect for the age level.
Brown captures the complicated workings of family and friends in the story and the difficult decisions that uproot and impact their lives.