Reading Level: MG
Publication Date: October 2007
Short Synopsis: It all starts with a school essay.
When twelve-year-old Gratuity ("Tip") Tucci is assigned to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for the National Time Capsule contest, she's not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens called Boov abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?
In any case, Gratuity's story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity's mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion.
Fully illustrated with "photos," drawings, newspaper clippings, and comics sequences, this is a hilarious, perceptive, genre-bending novel by a remarkable new talent.
My Review: This one flew under my radar completely when it came out. True, I wasn't really into the blogging world yet, but all the same.
When I did find out about it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. I don't know what it was about it, but there you have it. I saw a lot of really good reviews, though, so decided to give it a try and it ended up being not half bad! I thought that Tip was an amazingly spunky character and a great narrator. She was courageous but true to form (she beats up an alien, since her mom has been taken and her plant invaded...and then befriends him, cause he's a really really nice alien...which to me seemed like the things a real kid would do).
What I found odd about this book was that there was all of this destruction and death and loss, and even though it's in there, it doesn't feel uber depressing. I would read something, say parts of buildings vanishing, and then just continue on, and then my brain would process it and be like, "no wait! People just died! How can you be ok with that?" I don't know how this book got away with it, but as a kid reading it, you might not pick up on it at all. As an adult, I knew what was happening, but only when I thought really hard about it. It was weird. Not weird bad, but just odd.
J.Lo would have to have been my most favorite character. He's in a tough situation (being one of the invading aliens) but really makes the most of it. Adorable would be another good word to describe him.
The reason this is only getting 3 stars is the above stated oddness with how much bad stuff happens but 'not' (it doesn't gloss over...it just doesn't stick), as well as the last half of the book wasn't nearly as interesting as I thought it was going to be. It all ended up being kind of a let down. Good stuff happens, great actually, but it was just kind of like 'yeah, so it's over'. Not necessarily skimming the details (though there was a bit of that) but more along the lines of it wasn't that important (kind of like the death and destruction in the first half of it) and so not a lot of detail went into it.
The drawings were a real delight though. They helped in picturing the circumstances as well as seeing more into the characters, so that part was fantastic.
Ah! epiphany time! This was book was written from the point of view of an eleven year old (as a school essay) and since it is from the point of view of an eleven year old that type of focus (on rebuilding, death, destruction, etc) isn't given. Well...that more positively disposes me towards this...but all the same. I didn't love the book, just liked it.
The best thing to come out of this book though (and I say this in all honesty) is Tip named her car (her special alien modified floating car)
Most awesome car name EVER!! I am naming my next car that, watch if I don't!