Inventive, exciting, heartfelt. A splendid new YA novel.
Author: Chris O’Guinn
Publisher: Lightbane Publications
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
The night that Joaquin witnesses the fire in the sky was the last night of anything normal for him. His world of high school and football is completely upended as he comes face to face with an extraterrestrial being.
Thrace, as the alien calls himself, seems friendly enough. However, he has abilities that are far beyond human. And he comes with word that others of his race are already on Earth.
Joaquin’s friendship with Thrace takes him into danger and chaos as he learns the terrible truth of why the aliens have come to Earth. He and his friends must find some way to help Thrace stop his people, or the human race will suffer the consequences.
The only thing that Joaquin now knows for certain is that our world will never be the same.
Full disclosure: I am a Chris O’Guinn fan. I love that his voice in the YA world is not the same as every other voice, and that his books cannot be predicted based on the ones that preceded them. “Arrival: Hybrids (1)” is an auspicious start to what promises to be a great series.
Set in New Mexico, three of our four protagonists are Mexican American – Joaquin, Sylvia, and Arturo. Two of these are gay, and the third is a loner nerd who’s into the whole Roswell and Area 51 mythology. Good thing, too, because it turns out it’s NOT mythology.
Our fourth young hero is Thrace, the teenage alien who crash-lands on Joaquin’s pity party on a lonely mesa. I guess that makes him Alien-American, but he prefers to be called ELF (Extraterrestrial Life Form). (Do they pronounce that elf? I was never sure.)
Joaquin and Thrace are the central characters, although the supporting cast is beautifully drawn and enormously important in their secondary roles. There is a conscious irony in the absent parents in this book–because invisible parents is a YA trope that I generally dislike. But in “Arrival” the absent parents are at the emotional center of the novel’s narrative. Joaquin’s has just lost his father, a soldier in Afghanistan; and his police-officer mother is so shattered by her grief that she has turned away from her only child. Thus Joaquin is truly a lost boy, bereft of the adults he cares about through a shared sorrow too painful to confront.
Thrace is his alien avatar: desperately trying to find his missing father, and alienated (no pun!) from his mother by his constant breaking of the rules of his culture. Thrown together by accident, Joaquin and Thrace set out on a quest to find Thrace’s father and to unravel the increasingly disquieting mystery of his alien race’s activities on earth.
This is a page-turning adventure, but it is also a psychological study of teenage boys, teenage friends, loners and outsiders. It is somewhat in the mold of Rick Riordon’s “Percy Jackson” novels, but full of inventive and imaginative world-building driven by our national fascination with the possibility of alien life in the universe.
The only reason I was mildly disappointed in this book is the very reason I will be compelled to read the next one: Thrace and Joaquin clearly are drawn to each other, and their friendship builds throughout the book. As the final scene fades to black–quite satisfying but leaving us hungry for more–it is very clear that these two boys are destined to be more than friends. They just don’t know it yet.
This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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