At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David HutchinsonAt the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

At the Edge of the Universe

byShaun David Hutchinson

Hardcover | February 7, 2017

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From the author of We Are the Ants comes “another winner” (Booklist, starred review) about a boy who believes the universe is slowly shrinking as things he remembers are being erased from others’ memories.

Tommy and Ozzie have been best friends since the second grade, and boyfriends since eighth. They spent countless days dreaming of escaping their small town—and then Tommy vanished.

More accurately, he ceased to exist, erased from the minds and memories of everyone who knew him. Everyone except Ozzie.

Ozzie doesn’t know how to navigate life without Tommy, and soon he suspects that something else is going on: that the universe is shrinking.

When Ozzie is paired up with the reclusive and secretive Calvin for a physics project, it’s hard for him to deny the feelings developing between them, even if he still loves Tommy.

But Ozzie knows there isn’t much time left to find Tommy—that once the door closes, it can’t be opened again. And he’s determined to keep it open as long as possible.
Title:At the Edge of the UniverseFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:496 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1.5 inShipping dimensions:8.25 × 5.5 × 1.5 inPublished:February 7, 2017Publisher:Simon PulseLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1481449664

ISBN - 13:9781481449663

Appropriate for ages: 14

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great book Okay: for the most part, I really liked this book. It explores a lot of really complex and difficult subjects intertwined with the plot of the universe shrinking, though the sci-fi aspect wasn't as well integrated as I had hoped. Ozzie was a good, sarcastic character; I really enjoyed his narration. Calvin ... oh my god, I loved Calvin and wanted to hug him; he was probably my favourite character. Lua was incredibly badass and so cool. I really appreciate the diversity - Hutchinson has always written about gay teen boys, but nearly every major teen character is queer - genderfluid, bisexual, asexual.
Date published: 2017-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I really enjoyed this book. The characters were well described. I took me only 3 days to finish the book. You really want to understand where is Tommy and all the story behind him. I really recommend this book. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A unique premise with slow buildup. I know I only have the first twenty pages to go off of, but this one isn’t doing anything for me. The blurb promises a unique plot in the form of a male protagonist searching for his missing boyfriend. It’s doing similar things as History is All You Left Me, which makes me think this novel shouldn’t be ignored in terms of LGBT content, which although growing, is still pretty sparse. In terms of its opening sequence, it’s slow building. This setup is likely intentional to lull the reader into a false sense of security. It takes ten pages to get going. I don’t know if I’d read that far before making a decision in terms of pitch selection. There’s no indication that the inciting incident is a plane crash by the blurb, so I wouldn’t necessarily have much to go on if this were pitched to me. As a mere reader, though, the cliffhanger at the end of the first chapter is a solid hook that leaves you curious. Hutchinson is engaging with the world in ways I don’t ordinarily see male writers doing. Very early on in the text, he shames frat boys for boasting about date rape. More male writers should be engaging with this kind of discourse, even if it’s for a quick, throwaway line. I do find, however, that this protagonist is a little man-splainy, which is what I hate about male writers in general. But as far as male writers go, this one’s hardly offensive. From a publisher’s perspective, this is an interesting case, because while books with gay protagonists are in the minority, such manuscripts shouldn’t receive a free pass. Which is why many publishers don’t necessarily see the potential in so many of these books. I, for instance, wouldn’t be the agent or publisher to publish this one, but that doesn’t by any means mean it shouldn’t be on the shelves.
Date published: 2017-03-25

Read from the Book

At the Edge of the Universe 15,000,000,000 LY I SAT BESIDE THE WINDOW pretending to read Plato’s Republic as the rest of the passengers boarding Flight 1184 zombie-walked to their seats. The woman next to me refused to lower her armrest, and the chemical sweetness of her perfume coated my tongue and the back of my throat. I considered both acts of war. In the aisle seat a middle-aged frat bro babbled on his phone, shamelessly describing every horrifying detail of his previous night’s date, including how drunk he’d gotten the girl he’d taken home. And he ended each sentence with “like, awesome, right?” It sounded less, like, awesome, and more like date rape. “Flying alone?” asked the perfume terrorist. She had a Chihuahua face—all bulging eyes and tiny teeth—and wore her hair in a helmet of brassy curls. “Yeah,” I said. “I’m searching for someone.” “And they’re in Seattle?” “I don’t know,” I said. “Which is why I’m searching for him rather than meeting him.” I wasn’t exactly trying to be rude, but I hated flying. I understood the mechanics, knew my risk of dying in a car was far greater than in a plane, but cramming a couple hundred sweaty, obnoxious people into a metal tube that cruised through the air at five hundred and fifty miles per hour short-circuited my rational brain and loosed the primal, terrified aspect that didn’t grasp science and assumed flying the unholy product of black magic. Reading and not having to make small talk kept me calmish. Not that my oblivious seatmate had noticed. The woman tapped my book with a well-manicured fingernail. “It’s nice to see a young man reading instead of staring at a phone.” “Let me tell you about cell phones,” I said. “They’re two-way communication devices designed to slurp up your private personal information through their cameras and microphones and myriad sensors, then blast that data into the air for any determined creep to snatch and paw through. You believe no one is watching because it helps you sleep at night, but someone is always watching. And listening and collecting your GPS coordinates, from which they can extrapolate that you swing by Starbucks every morning on your drive to work, except on Fridays when you take the long way so you can grab a tasty breakfast sandwich. Phones are doors into our lives, and the government keeps copies of all the keys.” The woman smiled, her coral lips taut, and lowered the armrest. Finally. But I hadn’t really spoken to anyone in so long that instead of returning to my book, I kept talking. “My boyfriend disappeared,” I said. I peered over the seats at a gangly flight attendant near the cockpit who was facing the exit, gesturing at someone with his hands. “Thomas Ross. He’s who I’m hoping to find in Seattle.” The flight attendant glanced over his shoulder, his hawkish nose a compass needle pointing directly at me. “Interesting,” the woman said, though her tone said otherwise. “Tommy vanished two months ago. I’m the only person looking for him. Not the police or our friends. Not even his parents. He disappeared and they’ve stitched closed the hole in their lives; continued attending their everyone-wins-a-trophy soccer games and forced family suppers, because to them, he never existed.” The flight attendant slid into the galley to allow a red-faced sheriff’s deputy wearing a hunter-green uniform onto the plane. A burnished gold star hung over his left breast pocket, and he carried a gun clipped to a belt strapped around his waist. The sheriff’s officer floated down the aisle, his shiny shaved head swiveling from side to side, scanning each traveler like he possessed a Heads-Up-Display feeding him their names and personal details. “Tommy’d earned a 3.98 GPA,” I said. “He worked as the assistant editor for the Cloud Lake High Tribune, kicked ass on the debate team. And I’m certain he loved me. It’s the only thing I’m certain of. He wouldn’t have just left.” The woman, and everyone else on the plane, watched the cop shamble in my direction. “Teenagers often make rash decisions,” the woman said. “Your friend will turn up.” Turn up. Like a missing sock or the Batman action figure my older brother had hidden from me when we were younger. Like Tommy wasn’t missing but had simply been misplaced. “Also,” I said, “the universe is shrinking.” The sheriff’s officer stopped at my row and faced me. His name tag read BANEGAS. “Oswald Pinkerton? I need you to come with me.” “No Oswald Pinkerton here,” I said. “Maybe he’s on a different flight.” The cop puffed out his chest, trying to conjure the illusion that he was tough, but his arms looked like the only thing they were used to lifting was a television remote. “Don’t be difficult, kid.” “Perhaps you should do as he asks,” the woman said. She tucked her legs under the seat so I could, what, crawl over her? “Let’s go, Oswald.” Officer Banegas moved aside to allow my seatmates to shuffle into the aisle and clear me a path. So close. One flight, with a layover in Atlanta, from finding Tommy. Or from crossing off another place he wasn’t and further crushing my remaining hope of ever seeing my boyfriend again. If Palm Beach County’s Least Competent had stopped for coffee or taken a detour to the toilet to feed the sewer gators, the flight attendant would’ve shut the doors, the pilot would’ve taxied to the runway, and I’d have escaped. But maybe this was better. If I’d gone and hadn’t found Tommy, I might have been forced to entertain the possibility that he’d vanished for good. This way, I could continue believing I’d find him. I sighed, grabbed my backpack, tossed the Republic inside, and followed the deputy off the plane. Banegas clapped his hand on my shoulder, leaving me no choice but to accept my temporary defeat. The hatch clunked shut, and I resisted the urge to turn around. My feet weighed a hundred pounds each. Clearly, God had cranked up the gravity. The terminal—with its gaudy, outdated palm-tree-and-pastel Florida decor—greeted us as we exited the jet bridge. Deputy Banegas guided me to a seat in front of the windows with a view of the runway. “Wait here,” Banegas said. He moved off to the side and mumbled into his shoulder radio. My plane backed away from the terminal to begin its journey. My plane. I’d planned my getaway perfectly. I’d convinced my parents that Lua, Dustin, and I were road-tripping to Universal Studios for the weekend, and I’d begged Lua to cover for me even though I wouldn’t tell her where I was going. She’d reluctantly agreed after extracting a promise that I’d explain everything when I returned. I’d paid for the plane ticket using a prepaid credit card and found a place to crash using HouseStay to avoid having to deal with a front-desk clerk who might question my age. I’d even downloaded Seattle public transportation apps and devised an efficient search pattern that would have allowed me to best utilize my time. But despite my planning, my plane was flying away without me, and my parents were definitely going to ground me, probably forever. My life’s pathetic theme song repeated in my head. You failed. You failed. You’re a loser and you failed. Dada da doo dee. Lua could’ve written better lyrics, but the beat didn’t suck. Officer Banegas loomed over me. “Come on,” he said. “We’ll wait for your parents in the security office.” “Can I watch my plane take off at least?” I asked. “Please?” “Whatever, Oswald.” “Ozzie,” I said. “Only people who hate me call me Oswald.” “Fine,” Banegas said, annoyed or bored or wishing he’d called in sick. Then he smirked and added, “Oswald.” I walked to the window. My breath fogged the glass as the last feeble rays of the day lit the sky to the west with the colors of orange-and-pink swirled sorbet. I tracked my plane as it turned at the end of the runway. The wing flaps extended. I’d always wondered at their purpose, but never enough to bother looking it up. I considered asking Deputy Banegas, but he struck me as the type who’d cheated his way through college and had only joined the police force because he thought carrying a gun would be cool, then had been disappointed to discover the job consisted mostly of filling out paperwork and offered depressingly few opportunities to actually shoot people. “How’d my parents find me?” “Hell if I know,” Officer Banegas said. “Oh.” My plane’s twin engines roared. I couldn’t hear them inside the terminal, but I imagined their growl as the blades spun madly, faster and faster, struggling to reach critical speed before the road ended. I imagined myself still buckled into my seat, gripping the armrests, trying to ignore my seatmate’s fragrance offensive and banal chatter. The front wheels lifted as the nose pitched up. The air pressure over the top of the wings decreased, allowing my plane to defy gravity. It soared into the sky while I remained rooted to the earth. Deputy Banegas tapped my shoulder. “Come on, kid.” “Sure.” I retrieved my backpack and followed Banegas. We’d reached the lone shop in the center of the terminal when the shouting began. People ran to the windows. I ran to the windows. Banegas yelled after me, cussing and huffing. I ignored him. I pressed my face to the glass, crowded on both sides by travelers and airport personnel, and watched my plane tumble from the sky and crash into Southern Boulevard on the far side of the fence separating the runway from the road. I didn’t think about the individuals who died—the perfume bomber, the frat-bro date rapist, the passengers who’d watched Officer Banegas perp-walk me off the plane—only that they burned beautifully. Then the floor shook; the windows rattled. Someone screamed, breaking the held-breath paralysis that felt like it had stretched across infinite days though had lasted but the length of a frantic heartbeat. Officer Banegas’s radio squawked. He stood to my right, his arms limp, his eyes wide, watching the nightmare through the glass like it was a TV screen rather than a window. “Holy shit,” he said. Panic spread like a plague. Rumple-suited businessmen with phones permanently attached to their ears, weary parents and hyper children, heartsick halves of couples desperate to reunite with their missed loved ones, usually ornery ticket agents, and every spectrum of humanity between. None were immune. They screamed and huddled under rows of seats and ran and cried, their actions ineffectual. Their tears inadequate to douse my plane’s beautiful fire. I didn’t cry. Not me. I laughed. And laughed and laughed and laughed. It took two paramedics and a shot of something “for my nerves” to dam my laughter, but far more effort to finally quench the flames.

Editorial Reviews

The universe isn’t expanding anymore—it’s actually shrinking, and Florida high-school senior Ozzie is the only one who remembers it differently. He’s also the only one who remembers Tommy, his best friend since childhood and boyfriend since the eighth grade. Tommy has vanished, both from Ozzie’s life and from the memories of everyone around him. As graduation approaches and Ozzie’s world becomes literally smaller, he struggles to find Tommy with increasing desperation, even as he grows closer to Calvin, the quiet, elusive boy in his physics class. Occasionally nihilistic but never completely hopeless, the narrative supports multiple topics with grace: gender and sexual identities, mental illness, and the inevitable grief that comes with learning to move from one phase of life to another. A few familiar faces from Hutchinson’s We Are the Ants (2016) make cameo appearances, and fans will recognize similar motifs Hutchinson writes variations on a theme, to be sure, but it’s a rich theme. Wrenching and thoughtprovoking, Hutchinson has penned another winner. — Maggie Reagan