Monday, 21 July 2014

Review: The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Published: September 1, 2009
242 pages
Amazon * Goodreads * Barnes and Noble

Goodreads description:

New town, new school, new friends. It was difficult for Ginny at first, but her senior year is finally starting to feel kind of normal. That is, until she sees him--the beautiful mystery in her English class. He has never spoken a word to anyone. He moves through each day at school without making eye contact. His name is Smitty Tibbs, but everyone calls him the Alien.

Ginny is convinced there's more to the Alien than his muted exterior. But as she attempts to break into his safe and emotionless world, she realizes her efforts might be causing more harm than good. Has she gone too far, or not far enough?

My rating: 4 stars

I literally stayed up all last night reading this novel. The synopsis was so gripping, I just had to know what was up with Smitty. The first part of the book reminded me a bit of the film, The Boy Who Could Fly. In that film, 15 year old Milly meets a silent boy who lives next door to her and is in her classes at school. Her teacher even asks her to make a bit of a special project of him, and she spends a lot of time reading to him, taking him to the park etc.

Ginny is a similar type, new to the neighborhood, a thoughtful and nice girl who becomes intrigued by her classmate Smitty's silence. He does not speak, he does not communicate, he does not establish eye contact and he does not seem to want to be with anyone, ever. He's almost not there at all, but Ginny and her new best friend Caulder (thank you for not being a love interest, Caulder!) who has known Smitty since childhood, she tries to figure out what makes Smitty tick. At first the teens go to Smitty's house under the pretense of needing help with math. Well, they did kind of really need the help, but they also had the ulterior motive of trying to unlock Smitty in general. 

Bits and pieces of information about Smitty are eventually uncovered and we learn that he has been a victim of horrific abuse that leaves him a prisoner of his own beliefs. The mind is so powerful that once trained to believe something, the body reacts to the thoughts. 

Ginny also finds herself falling for Smitty as time goes on so there's a light romance aspect carried through. 

The characters are mostly well written and have expected and typical reactions to things. Caulder is much more impatient than Ginny and sometimes oversteps his bounds when pushing Smitty to communicate. The only part of the book that really seemed odd was the interactions with the psychologist and with Russell. The climax seemed a bit contrived and I questioned whether the tactics used by the psychologist were kosher.

I really liked the story, it kept me reading all through the night because I had to know Smitty's secret. As I have had my own anxiety issues and know what it is like to have your beliefs affect your body, I identified with some of what Smitty experienced. I think his condition was far more serious and precarious than even severe somatization disorders, but the author made some great observations through Ginny when she explained the intensity of our own thoughts and how they make up our realities and lives. 

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