Clues to the Universe (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Endearing middle grade novel told from the alternating perspectives of Ro, a biracial budding rocket scientist who recently lost her dad in a car crash, and Benji, a kid who doodles and falls asleep in science class that secretly wants to find his dad who abandoned the family. These characters are warm, believable and the reader will root for their success in achieving their dreams. I loved the early 1980s setting and the references to racial issues rang true. I look forward to this author's continued growth!

— Robin, Books Inc. Campbell


This stellar 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, and Ro even 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 try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

A Washington Post KidsPost Summer Book Club selection * A Junior Library Guild Selection *

About the Author

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

Praise For…

"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

"It’s impossible not to root for Ro and Benji as they discover the fun of imperfection, the wisdom that comes with failure, and the joy to be found in unexpected friendships."

“Alternating first-person chapters provide insight into each character’s fears, worries, and hopes, creating two compelling, relatable protagonists who recognize the strengths in their differences and help each other forge new paths forward.”
Publishers Weekly

“The message of resilience, courage, and friendship will resonate widely with young readers.”
— School Library Journal

Product Details
ISBN: 9780063008885
ISBN-10: 0063008882
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Publication Date: January 12th, 2021
Pages: 304
Language: English