Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

Release date: February 4, 2014
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them. 

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.
Is it weird that I wanted to read Alienated almost exclusively because I've been watching Star-Crossed on The CW (and loving it) and really wanted to read something similar? It might be, but it's true. Unfortunately, I'm now in a minority of people who aren't raving about this one. While it's really enjoyable and fun at times, I never truly connected to Alienated and a lot of the book felt cheesy and reliant on cliche.

Cara is your typical type-A overachiever. She's ruthless in her pursuit of being valedictorian and completely set on becoming a journalist, but the high cost of college is standing in her way after her mom had cancer and most of the family's resources were drained with hospital bills. So when the opportunity to host a L'eihr exchange student presents itself, with the offer of a massive scholarship, a chance to visit L'eihr, and the ripe chance to blog about the experience included, she can't turn it down. (My first question: If she wants to be a journalist so badly, why isn't she working for a school newspaper? Even my tiny high school had a paper.) At the beginning Cara comes off as not the nicest of people, what with sneakily knocking off the former valedictorian by retaking a class over the summer and getting a better grade, but she does prove herself not to be a mean girl, both in the ways she handles her persecution in her high school and her treatment of Aelyx. So there's that.

But Cara is supposedly ridiculously smart and a hard-worker, yet we basically don't see her ever paying attention to either school or homework, and her supposed debate team (of which she is the star debater) is mentioned three or four times, and she attends, what, twice? Her decisions aren't all that intelligent either, but at least that can be chalked up to being lovestruck, or something.

What's the problem here, though, is that most of the characters are boring cliches. You have the overlooked best friend, the jealous exboyfriend, the "groupie" (alien groupies!), and the intolerant jock, amongst others. No one displays much past these surface ideas, and it's hard to even begin to care about them, since there's clearly not much of an interior life, nothing that motivates them.

The "aliens" here are also kind of... lazy. I feel like it's something we've discussed enough at this point that we're of the understanding that aliens most likely are nothing like humans. Sure, a romance with a scary alien wouldn't necessarily be feasible or appealing, but it'd be nice if they were at least a little different from humans. Their DNA is basically identical, they eat foods eerily similar to ours (though without seasoning!), and live at temperatures comparable to Earth's. So, what's so alien about them? They've got advanced technology, but that's it. The people of L'eihr are like bland humans. Yippee?

There were points in the novel that I found enjoyable, and I did find myself rooting for the romance, but I guess I just expected more from a novel that so many have raved about. Alienated needs a world and alien race that are beautiful but different from our own, secondary characters that I could feel like I'm (at least) acquaintances with, and some deeper ideas going on. It's not a terrible book, just not one that feels especially well-realized.

About the author:

Melissa Landers is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn't afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public--just ask her husband and three kids. She lives outside Cincinnati in the small town of Loveland, "Sweetheart of Ohio."

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