The True Meaning of Smekday
by Adam Rex
Hyperion Books, 2007

The True Meaning of Smekday is a children's / young adult novel about that time the Earth was invaded by aliens. And then those other aliens. And how it all worked out okay in the end.

Gratuity Tucci (her mom thought that gratuity meant something else) is one of the first people on Earth to learn about the alien invasion. Unfortunately, this is because the aliens took her mom first. In the chaos caused by WWIII (mostly bloodless, because the aliens guns didn't make you bleed, they made you disappear) and the random appearance of aliens in certain people's homes, Gratuity (call her Tip), manages to live on her own for five months without anyone noticing.

Then the aliens decide that sharing isn't working, and all humans are going to go live on reservations now. Tip, being unusually independent for an 11-year-old, decides that rather than fly on the Boov-provided shuttle craft, she will simply drive. She loads up her car with a few belongings and her cat, Pig, and starts on a road trip from New York to Florida. Along the way, she accidentally crashes her car and captures a Boov mechanic. He may or may not be a criminal, he certainly is one of the evil invaders, but he is also willing to fix up her car in exchange for a free ride.

Tip and J.Lo (the Boov haven't come fully to grips with the intricacies of human language) and Pig go on a heartwarming adventure in which hardly anyone dies, during which they save the Earth from being destroyed, and everyone learns valuable lessons about the importance of family and friendship and cloning.

This is a pretty darn good book. It is a bit silly, but not at the expense of plot or characterization. It reads like a children's novel, including illustrations and a few pages of comic-book style narrative (J.Lo is illiterate in Earth language, but wanted to contribute), but some of the issues involved are rather advanced for your average pre-teen. We learn that there is no Santa Claus, that humans have a long history of jerkish colonization with attendant marginalization of minorities, and that humans are still racist and homophobic and xenophobic and agist and, given the opportunity, sometimes nudists.

I recommend this book to anyone who generally enjoys light science fiction, but especially so to those between 11 and 16. I would also recommended it to anyone who thought the DreamWorks movie Home was good fun but too milquetoast, as it was the mutant and bowdlerized movie adaptation of Smekday. I do not particularly recommended watching Home.

The True Meaning of Smekday currently has one sequel, Smek for President!

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