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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Laughed out loud at this adolescent novel -- at least once every three pages.

Rex, Adam (2014) Smek For President New York:  Hyperion



Opening lines:
 I heard our back door open, and J. Lo plunged through in a snit. 
     "The peoples of this town, they sure do hold a grudge," he announced.  "You accidentally make one puppy colossal and suddensly you are 'that alien'"

Okay, so yes, that is a confusing way to open a book -- which is why I recommend you get a hold of the first book in the series, The True Meaning of Someday right now. No, I'm serious.  Go do that.  I'll wait. Go. (And if you can, get the audio book version -- it is even funnier).

What, you don't trust me.  Okay fine, I'll explain.  So several years ago my friend Kris gave me Adam Rex's The True Meaning of Smekday and it was amazing.  The main character, Gratuity Gucci (she goes by Tip) is a 13 or 14 year old African American kid.  Her mom is kidnapped by aliens who need to probe her brain to learn to speak Italian.  While her mom is gone and Tip is trying to survive on her own, the aliens, called the Boov, invade earth.  They round up all the humans and tell them they may go about their daily lives, provided they are all willing to relocate to Florida (a kind of human reservation).  Tip decides to drive there to find her mom, and on they way she meets a Boov called J.Lo.  J. Lo (he chose that name for himself without really understanding the implications) is on the run because he was assembling a transmission tower and accidentally sent a message to another even more greedy alien race called the Gorg.  So Tip and J.Lo become fugitives from the Boov as they try to find Tip's mom.  Along the way they become friends, avert an invasion by the Gorg, and drive the Boov off-planet. 

But the story isn't the point.  The point is that somehow this book manages to be really funny and at the same time have all sorts of cultural relevance.  And that is just the first book off the series.  The second book (which is the one I am reviewing, remember) is even funny (but you need to read the first one to make sense of it).  J.Lo's version of English (No, that is not a typo in the opening lines above, Jo.Lo really does say "suddenly") is often genuinely funny, as are the cultural differences between the Boov and the people of Earth. Also, the Boov technology is described with enough plausibility that fans of true science fiction will not be frustrated.

There is nothing objectionable in the book.  In fact, Tip narrates both books, and whenever she has the need to express anger or frustration, she tells her audience that she is sorry, but she cannot report on what she said because it wouldn't be polite. 

What age is it good for?  Beats me.  In terms of vocabulary and content, I would say maybe really good fourth grade readers and up -- but what is most important in connecting this book with potential readers is that the reader have a really good or quirky sense of humor. 

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