Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: Taking Off by Jenny Moss

Taking Off by Jenny Moss is the story of a girl who has bigger dreams for herself than her boyfriend or her mom give her credit for. But, how to accomplish those dreams is the bigger challenge.

Synopsis: Reimagining the days surrounding this unforgettable event in history, readers are brought back to 1986 as the astronauts prepare for the Challenger mission, and Christa McAullife trains to be the first teacher in space. When a teen named Annie meets Christa, she is fascinated by Christa's courage. Truly inspired, Annie is determined to make it to Florida to see the Challenger launch, a trip that will forever change how she thinks about herself and her secret desire for her own future. Although she is devastated when tragedy strikes, Annie honors Christa by following her own dream, despite the obstacles. Bringing in her experience as a NASA engineer, Jenny Moss weaves a moving story that recaptures the inspiration teens must have felt years ago as they watched Christa McAuliffe reach for the sky. (

The best part of this book is watching the main character, Annie, grow and change and decide that SHE wants more for herself than everyone else is predicting. Annie loves poetry which is as just about everyone knows, not exactly rolling in the career opportunities. When she meets teacher Christa McAullife, Annie is awestruck and inspired. She wants to accomplish her goals and change herself, just like Christa, the first teacher to be going into space. I really liked how Annie started seeing Christa as a mentor and guide. I don't think the idea of mentors plays out nearly enough in teen books (without being obvious) but yet I think it's highly important for teens to have mentors they can admire and talk with.

I'm a big fan of road trips so I was excited to see that there is a road trip storyline in this book. Annie, her father, and Tommy, a friend of her father's and a guy Annie is crushing on hard. He inspires her to look deeper at her poetry and to keep trying, not giving up on herself. It was a bit disheartening to see his opinion being taken so seriously as I wished Annie could have found the strength to persevere without seeming to get "permission" from a guy she liked but that being said, he was a champion for her and we all need champions sometimes.

I was only a very small child when Challenger exploded so I really have no recollection of the event but as soon as I finished this book, I went on YouTube to see it myself (though I'm sure I've seen the footage at some point). It was just as scary and terrible as it was twenty-six years ago. I felt more connected to the event after reading Taking Off and connecting with Annie and the fictional Christa. Jenny Moss did her research and it shows throughout the book as I truly felt I got a glimpse of the amazing woman Christa McAuliffe was and why she inspired so many people. There is a bibliography included so readers can see what kind of research the author did in writing this book based around the real life event. 

I truly felt like I was there for the shuttle launch, like through Annie's eyes, I had my own glimpse into the disappointment of failed launch after failed launch and then the horror of seeing the shuttle explode. I do feel like that just as Christa inspired Annie, so too did the horrors of the Challenger explosion. While this book had a bit of a "leave each day like it's your last" feel to it towards the end, I still found it to be a good message of challenging yourself and to go beyond anyone's expectations. This book is message heavy but it didn't feel that way when I was reading it. Instead, like Annie, I felt inspired to test my own boundaries.

Other reviews:
Bookish Blather reviews Taking Off
The Book Swarm reviews Taking Off
Everyday Reading reviews Taking Off

Copy borrowed from my local library.


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