Monday, May 20, 2019

Middle Grade Monday and Arc Review: We're Not from Here by Geoff Rodkey

Image: Random House
We're Not from Here by Geoff Rodkey. 250 p. Crown Books for Young Readers/ Random House Children's Books, March, 2019. 9781524773052. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

One doesn't usually utter the words post-apocalypse and humorous in the same sentence. If anyone can make the end of the world funny, it's Geoff Rodkey. He has a knack for infusing even the most slapstick humor with a dry irony that serves as a one-two punch. We laugh and then, we think. I haven't laughed this hard at sci/fi since Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide series. 

Humans have managed to destroy planet Earth and are in search of a new home. They tried Mars but found it inhospitable. Planet Choom has agreed to take in what is left of humankind but in the twenty years it took for the group to arrive, the government changed its mind - the government changed leadership. Humans are not civilized and cannot be peaceful, they argue. The problem is, there's no going back - not enough fuel and nowhere to go. So, they agree to allow one family entry to assimilate and prove that humans can be peaceful. 

The Mufune family is chosen. Lan, our narrator, describes the efforts of their (Lan's gender is never revealed) mother, who is on the governing committee of the ship, to negotiate with the Zhuris. They are insect-like creatures who rule Choom and dislike emotion. Nothing can be funny and music is outlawed as well. Lan and their friend, Naya, host a popular internet channel where they upload content meant to amuse their shipmates. Lan's sister, Ila, was a popular vocal artist on Earth. These two talents do not endear the family to the Zhuris in charge, but individual Zhuris are intrigued. Unfortunately, the government uses media to present humans in the worst possible light (fake news) and manipulates the masses into a mob mentality that "proves" the danger.

This timely story will entertain but also nudge the reader, or a thoughtful one at any rate, into a bit of reflection about the human condition. Heady stuff for the average middle school student but we want to teach them to think critically, do we not? 

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