The Bookshelf, A Teen Review: The Half-Life of Planets by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin

Courtney Bowers
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Liana is a teenage science geek who has dedicated her summer vacation to studying space and the stars rather than kissing boys, her previous addictive hobby. After receiving a rather negative label from her peers for her incessant flings, Liana is determined to prove them wrong and remove the stigma.

Hank, on the other hand, has never been kissed. He also has no idea what his reputation is, but it’s not for lack of caring. Hank has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism disorder that makes him extremely socially awkward and inept. But like Liana’s stargazing, Hank also has a passion - music. The highlights of this book are the cool classic rock band references.

When Hank runs into Liana in a hospital bathroom, he is drawn to her because of her eclectic rock band T-shirt, and she is equally mesmerized by Hank’s frank and carefree way of speaking. They like each other, but there are still some problems: Liana isn’t kissing, and Hank is totally unable to comprehend her signals.

It sounds like a typical set-up for a love story involving Liana helping Hank overcome his problem. However, this novel focuses more on Liana’s struggle to accept Hank as he is.

Despite his good looks and incredible guitar-playing skills, Hank is still unable to understand Liana’s emotions, and this girl has a lot of emotions. Hank blindly fumbles through dates, attempting to decipher Liana’s expressions and tones, although he has no idea what cues she is giving him.

Regardless, Hank slowly teaches Liana how to let go of the worries of what others are thinking, while Liana allows Hank to attempt to connect to another human being. The result is a tumultuous relationship that shows them both the effort that it requires to truly love another person, along with how to love themselves.

This book made a huge impact on me. The alternating perspectives of Hank and Liana really allow readers to walk in both characters’ shoes, and it’s quite an insight to dive into the psyche of a person with Asperger’s. The novel does a perfect job of explaining the disorder without sounding like a medical textbook.

You will feel compassion and frustration with Hank as he continually makes a mess of simple situations, and you will sympathize and resent Liana for her reactions and tendency of running away from her fears. But the greatness of this book lies within the stark honesty of the writing. The characters are flawed—they’re selfish, impulsive and dramatic, just like real teenagers. With or without a cognitive disorder, it’s tough to make it through adolescence, and this book flawlessly explores that struggle.

Have you read “The Half-Life of Planets?” Discuss your thoughts on the book below.

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