Parents may refer to their teens’ behavior as “13 going on 30.” But in the case of Liam Digby, narrator of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s hilarious new novel, Cosmic, Liam doesn’t so much act like a 30-year-old as look like one. The results are out of this world. Literally.

It’s not just that Liam is tall. There’s the matter of his facial hair, which first becomes an issue during the Year Six trip to Enchantment Land. Liam is the only one in class tall enough for the Cosmic, a ride that generates 4g—four times the gravitational force exerted by the Earth. He loves the ride so much the class leaves without him. When his dad returns, the ride operator can’t believe Liam is a kid. “It’s not his height; it’s his beard.”

From then on, Liam discovers certain advantages to being mistaken for an adult. At a Liverpool shopping center, he passes as Florida Kirby’s dad. They explore to their hearts’ content without security guards thinking that they’re “unaccompanied children.”

And once you have that kind of success, why stop at shopping centers? Why not pop into the Porsche showroom? Why not, come to think of it, respond to a contest for the World’s Best Dad, to win a trip to Infinity Park in China and experience the Biggest Thrill Ride in the History of the World—the Rocket?

Eventually Liam manages to secure a place as the “responsible adult” on the first spaceship to take five kids into space. This is the cosmic experience he’s been waiting for—except for a slight malfunction that causes the Earth to disappear. Luckily, Liam and his crew are not without resources to solve the problem.

Boyce’s previous books include Framed and Millions, which was made into a wonderful film. Cosmic includes a promotional partnership with NASA and a contest in which a family of four gets a behind-the-scenes tour of Johnson Space Center.

Real trips into space won’t be part of the prize, though—at least, not just yet.

Deborah Hopkinson’s new books for young readers include Michelle and First Family, both illustrated by AG Ford.

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