Modern Book Review: ‘Rocket Boys’

Rocket BoysRocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I grabbed Rocket Boys because the library was promoting it as part of a one-book program where lots of people read the same book and attend events or discuss it.

I liked the book, and it made for a good plane read. It was a description of how some kids in coal-country West Virginia build rockets from scratch with the help of the mine’s machine shop and some assistance from helpful teachers and mining engineers.

The book inspired the film ‘October Sky’, and that is where my issue with it resides. I didn’t see the movie, but the bbook felt like it was written with a movie in mind. Occcasionally, I could see storyboards in my head. Maybe that is all books these days — as evidenced by ‘book trailers’ on the Internet, whatever those are supposed to be.

There was a group of misfit friends opposed to the football jocks, the love of football players, an unobtainable girl, a young, but tragic teacher championing the outcasts, and a big goal to bring honor to the town. All of it was enjoyable, but in a strange way, there were times when it all felt predictable, despite being a true story. Don’t get me wrong the book was a good one, but the writing of it, with the author looking back over 40 years, it makes you wonder just how much literary license was taken.

That said, it is a window into a different time. I have a hard time imagining any group of teenage boys getting so much help from grownups to do something like launch rockets that would occasionally explode and rain shrapnel down on a crowd of onlookers. It was also fun to read about how they did their experiments and got things together.

I would have liked a little more retrospective information on the science of what the boys did. The author went on to become a NASA engineer. The science and math of their experiements was somewhat glossed over, which is a shame, because I think a few diagrams and a bit more digression would have made that accessible to the reader.

All the same, I would recommend this book to people interested in the space program, because it shows how the passion and the history of it affected daily life. I would also recommend it to the geeky kids who feel a little left out of the mainstream because of their interests as a story that shows how they can pursue those interests. It takes work, but the work pays off.

View all my reviews

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