Clues to the Universe - Review and Author Interview

 Clues to the Universe

  • 📚 A timely read for today's middle-grade readers, covering tough topics like loss, differences, and imperfect families.
  • ✏📖 Fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead will love Clues to the Universe.
  • ❄️☃️👓 A middle grade must-read for Winter.
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This #ownvoices debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.

Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.

Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?

As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.


"Clues to the Universe shines with larger-than-life characters, the power of science, and a friendship greater than any force in the universe. Heartwarming, imaginative, timeless!" (Katie Zhao, author of The Dragon Warrior)

"An achingly beautiful and thoughtfully written debut that will find its way into the heart of readers seeking heart, hope and a sense of wonder."  (Karuna Riazi, author of The Gauntlet)

"With an engaging voice and perfectly lovable characters, Clues to the Universe is a heart-filling journey of hope, healing, and friendship." (Cindy Baldwin, author of Where the Watermelons Grow and Beginners Welcome)

“Christina Li’s Clues to the Universe is a triumphant story of friendship, loss, and the journey of finding your place in the world (and among the stars). A reminder that we sometimes have to travel great distances to find the secrets of what makes life beautiful. A remarkable debut!” ( Pablo Cartaya, award-winning, bestselling author of The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora)

“Charming, poignant, and thoughtfully woven.” (Kirkus Reviews)

An amazing debut that is absolutely beautiful. Such a heartwarming, heart tugging story of two kids searching for different things while slowly finding themselves. Being lost and struggling with that lonely feeling is tough, but to do it in middle school - whew - that can be even tougher. There is a lot of emotion in this book, but it is NOT heavy for middle grade readers. I really loved the deep diving it did into the grief - it was an amazing explanation done differently than any other story I have read. As someone who has lost their father and explored all of those realms, I do like reading stories where kids are exploring their grief and trying to understand and accept. 
Topics/themes covered: STEM, art, grief, friendship, alliance, loyalty, and family 

Highly recommend for your middle grade classes. Would be an amazing read aloud and the content connection with science and art. 



Christina Li is a student studying economics at Stanford University. When she is not puzzling over her stats problem set, she is daydreaming about characters and drinking too much jasmine green tea. She grew up in the Midwest, but now calls California home. Clues to the Universe is her debut novel. Find her online at

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