Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press (November 1, 2011)
Source: Finished copy provided by publisher
Cover: I got this book and thought it was going to be a really young voice. Man, was I wrong! I like the idea of this cover but I'm not sure it's something I'd pick up off the shelf.
First Sentence: You think you know who I am, the kid slumped in his chair in the back row, with greasy hair, wearing all black.
A startling, wonderful novel about the true meaning of being an alien in an equally alien world.
"We are specks. Pieces of dust in this universe. Big nothings.
"I know what I am."
Mal lives on the fringes of high school. Angry. Misunderstood. Yet loving the world -- or, at least, an idea of the world.
Then he meets Hooper. Who says he's from another planet. And may be going home very soon.Review:
I'd been expecting this novel to board line YA and middle grade and what I found inside was very different than what I thought. Mal's voice knocked me off of my feet with how fully realized it was and how so very not-young he seemed. First Day on Earth reminded me a lot of Lisa McMann's Dream Catchers series with the main character's life and circumstances. It's definitely an interesting debut that is uniquely it's own.
Mal's life mirrored Janie's life (from Dream Catchers) so much closer than I was expecting. Even the lyrical, short writing style that McMann does so well was effortlessly and effectively utilized. It's hard for me not to make this entire review a big comparsion to that series because of all the parallels. But rather than the similarities being a bad thing, they were done so well that it just served to remind me of all the good parts of McMann's series and apply them to this story.
I liked that Mal was that kid everyone knew and thought was a badass but really he was just a bleeding heart. He often comments on the way people act because he is so removed from his classmates. Yet, he is still trying to reach out in his own way, even if he doesn't understand how or who to trust. His soft hard was explained by his alcoholic mother and being left by his father. As he slowly started to open up the festering wounds, it became clear where his problems came from and how he was using aliens and out space to fill their void.
Do I understand what exactly happened in the novel from beginning to end? Not exactly. It's one of those stories that tells you things and you, as a reader, have to decide whether you want to believe them or not. As for me, I want to believe what Mal believes because I think he needs them. It makes the ending all the more sweeter. I do wish that it was a bit clearer but I don't know if the story could have maintained it's innocence if it was.
The writing was quick, easy. Sometimes a chapter was 8 pages and other times an entire chapter was one sentence. Just a passing thought or something that Mal's holds onto. The sentences are even broken up a little. But that worked so well to describe Mal and fit his personality. He was broken up on the inside though he was going to all the right places to try and help himself. It was exactly the right type of prose. It isn't very often that you get the right kind of style to fit a character so completely. I can name on one hand these titles. First day on Earth is definitely going on that list.
First Day on Earth isn't a pulse-pounding read. It will not sparkle for you and there are no frills. It doesn't need them. It shoves the reader into Mal's life for a short time and allows the reader to choose whether or not Mal changes. With beautiful prose to match the broken (but lovable) character inside, First Day on Earth I definitely an alien in it's genre. But it's otherness is what makes it out of this world.