School Library Journal: VERDICT A closing revelation may frustrate some, but this smartly written, profound look at the wells of human despair will stay with readers. Recommended for all YA collections where Hutchinson’s work circulates heavily.
Oswald “Ozzie” Pinkerton is facing a gauntlet of problems: his parents are divorcing; his older brother is skipping college to join the military, and Ozzie is afraid he’ll be killed; and Ozzie’s boyfriend since eighth grade, Tommy, has vanished. To make matters worse, everyone in the town of Cloud Lake seems to have erased Tommy from their memories, even Ozzie and Tommy’s best friends, gender-fluid punk rocker Lua and quiet valedictorian Dustin. Also, the universe is shrinking, and Ozzie appears to be the only person who realizes it. Ozzie has no idea how to function without Tommy, but when he’s paired with solitary Calvin for a physics project and Calvin mentions Tommy’s name, Ozzie begins to hope that Tommy is still out there. Hutchinson follows up We Are the Ants with a deep and introspective novel full of angst and suffering. Readers will feel Ozzie’s nearly radiant pain, but Universe isn’t singularly focused. All of the characters are neatly fleshed out and have their own personal anguish: Lua deals with being gender-fluid in a small town; Dustin, whose father loses the family fortune, has to confront a future where his dreams cannot be attained; and Ozzie’s trials serve as a lens through which readers can examine the scope of human experience in this (shrinking) universe.