Wednesday, December 14, 2011
The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
I listened to this on audio book, which I'm not going to recommend. The audio book itself wasn't bad, although the voice that was being done for the aliens got kind of annoying after a while. When you listen to it, you miss out on visual elements. Tip has an old Polaroid camera she's taking pictures with through their travels, and J.Lo draws comics to explain things about his background and the Gorg. When I figured out I was missing something, I went and found the book and looked at all the pictures. You do really miss out if you don't have that piece.
The book grew on me as it went along, and in the end I wound up really liking it. I wasn't sure at first though. I think some of it was getting used to all the different voices on the audio, and part that the story kind of starts in the middle, but it completely won me over.
Tip is a pretty amazing kid. She was taking care of herself and her mother before the alien invasion, and she put all those survival instincts to good use as she tries to get to her mother. Unlike most of the population, Tip hasn't given up the idea of taking the planet back. The relationship between Tip and J.Lo emerged organically. At first, they are only together because they each need something from each other. Slowly, they begin to trust each other and work together. They learn about each other's cultures and lives and understand each other better. They become true friends, and instead of using each other they genuinely care for and protect each other.
This could have been a very dark book. I mean, the world has been taken over, everything has fallen apart, millions have probably died and now everyone has to leave their homes. Humans have no rights, families have been separated, it's really pretty awful. That wasn't the focus though. The focus was on Tip and her determination. She would find her mother, she would get rid of these aliens and none of these annoying adults who didn't know anything was going to stand in her way. With J.Lo to back her up, she was unstoppable. The big bad aliens are defeated by a 12 year-old and a whole bunch of cats when everyone else was ready to surrender. It's a pretty awesome book for a middle school kid to read.
I enjoyed the framing device that was used. At first, it was confusing, because the first time Tip tries to write her essay, she starts in the middle. We have no idea how the invasion happened or what happened to her mom. The second try at the essay gives us the background and what happened to her mom. The third part is not intended for anyone else to see, but for Tip herself to capture what really happened. It also allowed for a poignant end, with a newspaper clipping describing the time capsule with Tip's essay being dug up 100 years later, and much to Tip's annoyance, she's still alive.