Book Review: The Space We’re In by Katya Balen – illustrated by Laura Carlin

Add The Space We’re In to your Goodreads TBR:

Published in Australia on the 19th November, 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

Purchase Links:



Angus & Robertson:

Australian RRP: $14.99

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction.

Page Count: 292

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Synopsis from Bloomsbury Publishing:

We are her world and her universe and her space and her stars and her sky and her galaxy and her cosmos too.
Frank is ten. He likes cottage pie and football and cracking codes. Max is five. He eats only Quavers and some colours are too bright for him and if he has to wear a new T-shirt he melts down down down.
Sometimes Frank wishes Mum could still do huge paintings of stars and asteroids like she used to, but since Max was born she just doesn’t have time.
When tragedy hits Frank and Max’s lives like a comet, can Frank piece together a universe in which he and Max aren’t light years apart?
This jaw-dropping, heartbreaking and hopeful novel from debut author Katya Balen will remind you we are all made of stardust. For fans of thought-provoking, moving middle grade from Wonder to Skellig.

My Review:

A huge thank you to the team at Bloomsbury Publishing Australia for sending me a copy of The Space We’re In to read and review, all thoughts are my own.

This is just such an exquisite book, filled with raw emotions and powerful illustrations throughout which to me, conveyed the emotions of Frank, the 10 year old brother who primarily narrates this story.

The Space We’re In follows Frank and Max, the latter of whom is five years old and has Autism. Max, who only eats potato based food, who only thumbs through his baby catalogues, who uses flash-type cards to communicate, who likes routine and similarities and shudders and squeals every time he is faced with something new that is not routine.

Frank, who loves nothing more than getting lost in the world of code-cracking, struggles with his younger brother, I mean, he obviously loves him but at the same time there’s a feeling of anger towards him because Max’s condition had worn down their Mother, and Frank thinks that if it weren’t for Max, maybe their Mum would be able to enjoy her hobby of painting more and definitely not have so much stress wearing her down.

The utter emotion conveyed through every point of this book! I utterly loved every moment! I couldn’t help but be drawn into the lives of these two brothers and in a sense I didn’t want this beautiful book to end! The blurb on the back of the book alludes to a tragedy striking the family’s life during this book, I must admit I had a hunch as to what that would be!! I was right, too! But still, even as the book was progressing along to something tragic coming, I still found it so sad to read! I just wanted to hug both Frank and Max and reassure them!

I’ve mentioned that Katya Balen’s writing, coupled with Laura Carlin’s illustrations, conveys emotion and especially grief so vividly! As Frank struggles to come to terms with what’s going on, I just couldn’t help but feel torn up for him and even though there are moments when he’s angry and destructive towards Max, I could tell that he’s proud of him and that of course he loves him. During an outing with the family and neighbour Mark and his dog Neil, there’s a precious moment where Max utters his first word! Everyone’s just so happy and I felt so happy too!

Another celebratory moment after the tragedy that occurs is Frank getting to see Max perform in his school play! I love how proud Frank was of Max, and even though he wasn’t performing in the traditional sense of speaking lines, he was still up there on stage in his wolf costume, visiting wild things and seeing the world! It’s definitely a scene that will stay in my mind for time to come! And in addition to that, when one of the silly school bullies makes fun of the fact that Max performed in a play “he doesn’t even talk!” Frank stands up for his brother and says how proud he is of him!! I was cheering so much!!! Throughout the earlier points of this book, Noah bullies Max and Frank doesn’t say anything but definitely feels ashamed for not speaking up, so I was so so happy that he actually did!!!

I utterly adored the scenes where Frank and his best friends ran through the forest, pretending to be wild boys, not having cares in the world and Frank momentarily being able to forget his woes, the scenes with Mark and Neil, where Mark tells Frank that “we’re all made of stardust,” which is another of my favourite moments, Frank feeling jealous of how much Max loves Mark and Neil, but then Mark telling Frank about his own beloved brother who has Autism too, honestly this whole book was just so precious and memorable! I loved the scenes with Frank and his beloved mother too, where they’d talk through a code that only they both knew, and how Max and Frank were indeed the stars and galaxy in her sky, the true centre of her universe.

The Space We’re In is definitely one of my favourite middle grade novels and just one of the best I’ve read in a long time! The story of Frank and Max will be staying with me for some time and I urge everyone to pick it up too!

Happy Reading,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.