Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen Randle

The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen Randle
ISBN: 1402226691
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2008
240 p.

Plot Summary: Ginny befriends her new neighbors, Calder and his friend Smitty. Smitty is very bright but doesn’t speak and doesn’t interact with other people to the point of having an almost crippling phobia. Ginny develops an interest in Smitty, part romantic and part pure curiosity. It starts when Smitty helps her with her homework and she becomes intrigued by him. One day, the three friends go and see a sad film and Smitty bolts from the theater. Ginny can see that he was crying and winds up kissing him. This causes something to snap in Smitty's mind, he talks for the first time and asks her to leave. He is hospitalized, and the doctors find out that Smitty had a deceptively charming brother who tortured him emotionally. He made Smitty think that if he ever talked to anyone it would kill him and he internalized it. The rest of the book is about Ginny helping Smitty put his life together and the interaction between the two.

Critical Analysis: Randle's book is very well paced and well written and there is a lot of good character development. Her characters seem varied, real, and complex. The title comes from Ginny's brother who said "never make the mistake of believing you're the only alien on the planet." Ginny came into the situation with this knowledge, so there is a reason that she is interested in Smitty. If this character development had not occurred, Ginny would have seemed like a shallow gawker, so this information helped make the somewhat outlandish situation seem more real.

From a psychological standpoint, the novel was very interesting. Young adult books often tackle tough situations, especially social ones, but few portray psychological torment and nuance as well as The Only Alien on the Planet. Through her skilled writing, Randle makes the story feel plausible. Although the idea of someone so detached from emotion is far fetched, she manages to make it work.

Overall, the characters react more reasonably to extreme situations than oftentimes in realistic fiction. They are mature and reasonable people, there is genuine concern for other people. Genuine concern does not often come through in YA fiction, it seems that many books all too often often send the message that teens are irresponsible and impulsive. Randle's work is not trying to impose any particular moral on the reader and it is not about overcoming peer pressure; it is much more introspective.

Reader’s Annotation: Ginnie has a mysterious new neighbor named Smitty who seems detached from the world. After a few interactions, she becomes intrigued with him and will end up plumbing his mental depths for better or worse.

Author Information: Randle has spent much of her life in Utah writing with her musician husband. She belongs to the Church of Latter Day Saints but only allows her views and morals to come into her writing naturally.

Source: http://www.krandle.com/pages/about/Bio.html

Genre: realistic fiction

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: What is the overall motif or lesson to be learned from this book?

What is the significance of the title?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 12-16

Challenge Issues: N/A

Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it yourself is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.

Why I included this title: The Only Alien on the Planet deals with complex interpersonal issues in a reasonable and sensitive manner. It is great for reluctant readers and there is a lot of room for critical analysis. Based on the information you are given, there is a lot to infer. Character-wise, it is easy for the reader to empathize. Overall, it was the type of book that needed pitch perfect execution and Randle pulled it off.

No comments:

Post a Comment