“Tell me where you’re really from.”
The topic of “home” is supposed to be small talk, something to ask a new acquaintance as a way to get through the awkwardness of first encounters. But for Gardner Elliot in The Space Between Us, his answer isn’t only unorthodox—it’s classified.
Gardner was born on Mars, mere hours after his mother landed with the team of astronauts she was supposed to be leading in humans’ first attempt to colonize the barren planet. As far as unplanned pregnancies go, this one had to beat all. It also had to be kept a secret, for the sake of avoiding negative PR and prompting investors to scrap the whole project.
Consequently, when 16-year-old Gardner finally arrives on Earth, no one understands his disorientation or believes his story—not even his friend Tulsa, the one person on Earth he already knows and is dying to meet. Tulsa, a jaded teenage girl about to age out of the foster system, has spent much of her time on this life-filled planet being moved from one household to another, bringing along with her a steady flow of checks from the government and too many stories of being lied to. So when Gardner arrives at her school locker with tales of growing up on Mars and dreaming of the chance to finally meet her . . . well, you can imagine how that conversation goes.
Often it’s a friendship with someone whose world is radically different from ours that teaches us the most. As seen through Gardner’s wide eyes, Earth is a place of beautiful music and bright-colored hot air balloons, patchwork farm fields, delicious burritos, and so much water that it even falls out of the sky. It’s a place with so much life in it, he’s not always sure how to take it in.
But oh, how he tries. And it’s this trying, this whole-hearted pursuit of beauty and life and human connection, that breathes so much vitality into Gardner’s story. He’s constantly asking everyone the same question—“What’s your favorite thing about Earth?”—and their answers form a mosaic of what it means to be human:
We see our world anew when we see it through the eyes of a young boy who, despite growing up in an entirely different world, is just as human as we are. The Space Between Us is a quiet revolution, a story that stands its ground against isolationism and reminds us of our very basic unity. While Gardner may not have acknowledged the Creator who planned his birth and created him for connection, his passionate pursuit of life and relationships is still a testament to the One whose image he bears.
We, along with this boy from Mars, are human after all—with water in our air and our blood, with dreams that refuse to die, and with the simple love that forms when we choose to see each other face to face. (Universal)