Hutchinson, Shaun David. “At the Edge of the Universe”, Simon Pulse, 2017.
Our Shrinking Universe
Tommy and Ozzie have been best friends since the second grade, and they have been boyfriends since eighth. They spent almost all of their days together dreaming about getting away their small town—and then, suddenly, Tommy vanished. Actually, Tommy no longer existed and was no longer in the minds of people who know him and they also had no memories of him. The only person that did was Ozzie.
Ozzie has no idea of how to live Tommy and suspects that something else is going on. He believes that the universe is shrinking. Then when Ozzie is paired with new student Calvin on a physics project, he begins to wonder if Calvin could somehow be involved. However, the more time that the two spend together, the harder it is for him to deny the feelings that they have for each other despite the fact that he still loves Tommy. Ozzie senses that there isn’t much time left to find Tommy and he’s determined to get his boyfriend back.
This is not a read with a lot of action; rather it is a novel of ideas that propels readers to wonder about their place in a world that often seems to be uncaring and meaningless. We read of the confusion of young love and loss and explore themes of dementia, abuse, sexuality, and suicide as influence young people who are growing up.
Ozzie is obsessive about Tommy and has the idea that the universe is shrinking and that Tommy is a casualty of restricting astral girth. Ozzie tracks the solar system’s diminishing size. He is forced to consider his loyalty to Tommy while at the same time becoming attracted to Calvin. We get quite a cast of characters including a genderqueer girl who prefers masculine pronouns, a black boyfriend, an Asian/Jewish student as well as a student body with last names that represent the salad bowl that America is. Ozzie is called out because he underestimates the privilege he enjoys as a white male.
Ozzie narrates the story in the past tense and we get flashbacks in the present tense that show the beautiful and intimate history of Ozzie’s relationship with Tommy. Ozzie is the only one who remembers Tommy, his best friend since childhood and boyfriend since the eighth grade. As graduation comes nigh, Ozzie’s world becomes literally smaller and he struggles to find Tommy even as he grows closer to Calvin.
We read of strong friendships and relationships that are always changing and as the universe shrunk, so did Ozzie’s world. This is a story that reminds us to be aware of the people we know and love and it is about the end of the universe as we know it. For Ozzie, losing Tommy meant being alone.
While the plot may seem fantastic, it is actually about the reality of life and it takes a writer like Shaun Hutchinson to be able to convince us that the story we read here is a real possibility.