This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger
originally published 1986
Dell Yearling, 1st printing, 1989
Genre: Young adult, juvenalia
Synopsis & Review: Aurora Williams is thirteen and perfectly happy with her life. Oh, she has some small complaints–not enough allowance, her parents won’t let her get an eyelash transplant, and an annoying little sister named Starr–but she’s also part of the coolest clique in school, the Turnips, she’s a good student with a chance of being in some real high school plays now, and her longtime crush Matthew is reciprocating. And then her parents tell her that they’re joining an experimental colony for five years. On the Moon.
Forced by her parents to try lunar life for at least one year before they’ll reconsider letting her return to earth to live with her grandparents, Aurora’s perfect life is now upside down. She has to socialize with everyone in the small colony, adult and child, drippy and interesting folk alike. Nothing is like it used to be, and she misses her old life terribly. Will Aurora learn to be part of her community and family, and relinquish her self-appointed role as center of the universe?
I’m not sure I’d say this was my favorite Paula Danziger book–it’s so hard to choose–but it’s one I read and re-read voraciously, and when I mention it to others in my general cohort, they know and love it, too. This Place Has No Atmosphere is one of Danziger’s later, lighter works; though she continues to touch on tough issues in them, there is a calmer, less angry feel to them. And TPHNA is especially frothy, a fun quasi-science fiction romp set fifty (seventy when it was written; dang, I feel old) years in the future, in a world with forty story malls, robot teachers, and lunar colonies. Even in the future with all its marvels, however, kids suffer many of the same problems and insecurities as they do now. Aurora wants to fit in, and though she sometimes feels guilty about it, she also sometimes acts like a brat. In fact, she’s extremely shallow and self-absorbed, but that adds to the verisimilitude of the novel, because what teenager isn’t at times? She develops very nicely through the book, however, learning about herself–and the people around her for once. Aurora goes from worrying about clothes and dances to being an active member of her community, helping to stage a play and care for young children. The relationships she develops with her little sister and with her male friend Hal are particularly sweet.
Danziger’s customary corny and pun-laden humor is present in full force, but much of the humorous charm of the novel stems from her amusing future world. There are darker notes about the future, such as the way people were forcibly relocated to apartment-style living, but these are subtle illuminations of the dystopia in which Aurora lives.
Definitely recommended for pre-teens.As long as pre-adolescents have to move or change schools, as long as they fear being uprooted and have to adapt to such changes, TPHNA will be relevant.
One fun aspect are the notes and letters Aurora writes to her friends, as well as a quiz she takes. There’s also a chapter written as a play.
Read also: Remember Me to Harold Square by Paula Danziger, Don’t Care High by Gordan Korman, Indigara by Tanith Lee, Feed by MT Anderson, some of Heinlein’s Future History stories
Cover: God, I hate the cover I have. I don’t even know where it came from, but it is butt-ugly. It makes Aurora look like Stephanie from Full House, and I loathed that show and character. Still do. The cover I remember is classic, and I will pretend that my cover was stolen and replaced by evil mutants.
Juna’s a celebrity because she was the first child conceived in space. Her parents were honeymooning astronauts on a space shuttle expedition. When they came back to earth, Mrs Jamison was pregnant. Ever since then, Juna’s had lots of publicity. But lately she’s become kind of embarrassed that the whole world knew what her parents were doing when the cameras were off. Now there are lots of kids not only started in space but born there. But Juna was the first, so she’s in the news, kind of like back in the old days when the first test tube baby was born.