cover image In the Quick

In the Quick

Kate Hope Day. Random House, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-5255-1125-0

In Day’s uneven latest (after If, Then), a precocious girl grows up to be an astronaut in a near future of expanded space exploration. June Reed, 12, lives with her aunt Regina, who raised her along with June’s late uncle Peter, a brilliant engineer for the National Space Program. Shortly before Peter died, he developed a fuel cell for Inquiry, a spacecraft that lost power as it was beginning its orbit around Saturn. After June hears that the blame is being put on a fuel cell malfunction, she becomes obsessed with fixing the design flaw and rescuing the four astronauts aboard the craft, and Regina sends the mischievous June away to boarding school to prep for astronaut training. Despite being younger than her peers, June’s tenacity earns her a spot on a space station, where she and her uncle’s protégé fix the faulty cell to power a rescue shuttle. While Day does a decent job developing June as a curious girl who claims to be “better with machines than with people,” the haphazard plot feels rushed and the prose can be clunky (“My eyelids were like lead. They lowered. They lowered. They lowered again”). This is primed for launch, but it doesn’t really take off. Agent: Brettne Bloom, the Book Group. (Mar.)