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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Alien Abduction Story Leaves Me Feeling Flummoxed ... and Not Much Else

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Alien[eyl yuh n, ey leeuh n] adjective: unlike one's own; strange; not belonging to one: alien speech. (from

It's appropriate that First Day on Earth, Cecil Castellucci's new (available November 1) YA novel, concerns aliens because I think the above description fits the book to a T. It's weird. It's strange. It's just ... alien. I'm not sure how to describe it, let alone react to it, but I'll try ...

The story revolves around Mal, a 16-year-old high school student nursing some serious angst. With his dad long gone and his mom mourning her abandonment with as much alcohol as she can find, Mal's usually left to his own devices. Since everyone thinks he's weird, Mal doesn't have any friends. Lonely, bitter, and confused about his place in the world, he seeks solace with a community support group. For survivors. Of alien abductions. Among the members of the group, Mal actually sort of fits in. The thing is, though, that none of the abductions other people describe during meetings resemble the experience Mal had with aliens. Or thinks he had. How else can he explain those hazy days when he disappeared back when he was 12? If the group can't help him make sense of what happened, who can? And if it wasn't aliens, what did happen to Mal? Most importantly, if the people in the group are crazy - and he strongly suspects they may be - then what does that say about Mal?

When Mal strikes up an unlikely friendship with Hooper, a mentally-challenged homeless man who's waiting for the Mother Ship to beam him up, Mal thinks he may finally have found his savior. The only problem: Mal has to somehow convince Hooper's aliens to take him with them when they come. And if they don't show up? Then, Mal will know for sure what he's always suspected - he's officially insane.

See what I mean? Strange premise (although I like the whole I'm-a-teen-who-feels-like-a-stranger-in-my-own-body-maybe-I-was-abducted-by-aliens idea), strange plot, strange execution. The whole story weirded me out so much that I couldn't connect with it at all. It's not exactly cheery either - the hopeful ending seems tacked on, not convincing. So, although I liked the book enough to finish it, overall, First Day on Earth was a really odd read for me. It left me feeling flummoxed and not much else.

(Readalikes: Um, I really can't think of anything. Can you?)

Grade: C-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for strong language (1 F-bomb, plus milder invectives), lewd humor and mature themes

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of First Day on Earth from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!


  1. This supposed to be for young adults, right. Hmmm....dont think i will like it as i dont really fancy the strony language

  2. Mama - It's YA, yes.

    LLL - Thanks for the Follow! I appreciate it. I don't usually Follow other people's blogs simply because they ask me to, but if I check your blog out and love it, I'm happy to subscribe via Google Reader.


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