Launch Me to the Stars I'm Finished Here by Nick Gregorio starred book review
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STARRED Book Review: Launch Me to the Stars, I’m Finished Here

LAUNCH ME TO THE STARS, I'M FINISHED HERE by Nick Gregorio (Trident Press) is a touching family story about the distance mental health can create between us and the ties that can bring us back together.

Launch Me to the Stars, I’m Finished Here

by Nick Gregorio

Genre: Literary Fiction / Science Fiction

ISBN: 9781951226183

Print Length: 366 pages

Publisher: Trident Press

Reviewed by Nick Rees Gardner | Content warnings: depression, suicide

A touching family story about the distance mental health can create between us and the ties that can bring us back together

Astrid’s psychiatrist, Dr. Loonsfoot, is an astrophysicist. She gives Astrid hope. But mainly in the form of an alternate dimension where she can no longer be overwhelmed by earthly expectations.

A literary novel equipped with sci-fi elements, Nick Gregorio’s Launch Me to the Stars, I’m Finished Here plumbs the depths of Astrid’s turbulent mental health and the various drastic measures she takes to alleviate it. The story alternates in point of view between Astrid and her mother, Cassie, as the two fail to communicate and alienate themselves from relationships and friends. Gregorio paints a real and heavy picture of a mother-daughter connection caught in the strangle-hold of anxiety and depression, a distance that grows as they struggle to hold each other close.

For months, Astrid ends her school day and rushes off to meet Dr. Loonsfoot at their lab, a dilapidated house in the woods, to piece together a spaceship mostly from stolen parts. After a mishap that leaves Astrid with a broken arm, the two future astronauts take to conning college labs and robbing guarded government facilities to source the elements needed to complete their journey.

With increased risk comes increased paranoia, a secretive life that distances Astrid from her mother, Cassie, and her best friend, Willa. While Astrid spirals, Willa and Cassie make it their mission to get to the bottom of what is going on with her, an investigation that not only tests their ability to trust each other, but puts everyone in the path of grave danger.

The true brilliance of Gregorio’s book lies in its ambiguity and sense of doubt, but also a growing apprehension of the two women’s world. As the story goes on, it becomes difficult for the reader to be sure whether the black cars that follow Astrid are real or exist only in her head.

Similarly, as Cassie and Willa investigate Dr. Loonsfoot (is she even a doctor?) doubt is cast as to whether the spaceship was ever meant to be functional or just an element of hope that Loonsfoot employed to ease Astrid’s mind. At times, even the narrator seems uncertain about what is going on with Astrid: “Whatever her brain was doing it made the men watching her, the black cars driving around and around, and Loonsfoot stand out.” That, “whatever” reflects an inability to fully understand the inner workings of Astrid’s mind.

It isn’t until the big reveal at the end that the reader (along with the narrator and characters) discovers whether or not it is even possible for Astrid to escape to another dimension (securing the story as science fiction) or whether she has been deceived (and the story is realist with a paranoid protagonist). In a story that, on the surface, is already filled with plenty of conflict and tension, the constant questioning of reality and truth add a unique and intriguing level that makes the book difficult to put down.

Which is quite a feat for a novel of this size and scope. Word and page count don’t stand in the way of flying through Gregorio’s rhythmic prose and unique sense of layout and style. A scene between Astrid and her romantic partner, Garrett, employs fragments and line breaks to allow the reader to feel the fervor and passion:

“Her fingers in the tuft of hair on the small of his back. Feeling for the ridges of spine where his back dipped into a groove in the center. Put a finger in his belly button. They both laughed at that, all chuckles and lips and her beer breath.

And there was nothing else.”

The musical quality of excerpts like this one, paired with the humor (the word belly button will always be funny to me), drag the reader headlong through the emotional rollercoaster of this novel. The reader is able to truly empathize and understand, in a real and revealing light, the shadows that lurk beneath the surface of even the best parts of Astrid’s life.

While there have been a great many novels about women and mental health, Nick Gregorio’s work is a unique addition to the canon. With his more whimsical approach and his panning between sci-fi and paranoid realism, Launch Me to the Stars, I’m Finished Here is a literary novel that defies, bends, and expands the genre and form. Astrid’s story will wrench your heart out while keeping a smile on your face.

Thank you for reading Nick Rees Gardner’s book review of Launch Me to the Stars, I’m Finished Here by Nick Gregorio! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.

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