The blurb for this book gave the impression it was going to be a light heart science fiction romance that I could devour in one sitting without having to work too hard. And while it was all these things, it had far more depth than I was expecting. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it as the name “Alienated” extended past the pun of being an alien in a human school exchange program to the alienation many of the characters experience, not just the alien boy Aelyx but also host Cara and her family and friends.
It portrays xenophobia at its worst, a fear of change as well as fearing what is different from ourselves resulting in violence in an attempt to proetct. And this fear isn’t just portrayed from the human side but also from the aliens.
The narrative alternates between Aelyx and Cara’s point of views and, while Cara seems a little too accepting as the story progresses, Aelyx is clearly conflicted over the usefulness of the exchange program and potential alliance and his thoughts and feelings are more realistic in comparison.
I enjoyed Cara’s use of the blog, especially as what she writes is frequently far from the truth, and the romance is sweet and awkward. It’s been a while since I was honestly so embarrassed on behalf of the character that I’ve put the book down for a moment to prepare myself.
However, despite the heavy theme of “speciesism”, I found it strange that Aelyx and his people were described as being identical with light brown hair and russet skin, to Cara they looked “like walking paper bags” (33), while on the cover Aelyx was depicted as a white young man. Is this more appealing to readers? Did Landers’ have any say in the cover art or was it determined by the publishing company? It did have me flicking to the front of the book to confirm that yes, someone had purposefully chosen to portray Aelyx as white rather than reddish-brown. It reminds me of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Chronicles and the movie adaption that had Ged, the protagonist who Le Guin purposefully chose to have red-brown skin in criticism of fantasy having white heroes, played by a white actor.
Despite the cover, this is just another book that has me hanging out for the next, though thankfully it doesn’t end on a cliff hanger. Here’s to summer 2015 (for Aussies) when “Invaded” is due for release.