Love and Other Alien Experiences – Kerry Winfrey – Paper Lantern Lit. – Published 10 November 2015
My name is Mallory Sullivan.
My therapist says I have an anxiety disorder.
My brother says I’m an “optimistic recluse.”
Everybody else says I’m a freak.
And they kind of have a point, because I haven’t left the house in 67 days and only attend class via the webcam on my laptop. The person I talk to the most other than my mom and brother is the completely obnoxious BeamMeUp, and all we do is argue on New Mexico’s premiere alien message board.
But after yesterday, I have something: a chance. If I can win the homecoming crown by convincing resident hot popular guy and Friday Night Lights spawn Brad Kirkpatrick to go as my date, then maybe #stayathome will never appear next to the name @Mallory_Sullivan ever again.
First, I have to leave my room.
Attention all nerds, geeks and various others who believe there is alien life out there, this is the latest in great nerd-centric fiction. With humour, alien message boards, handsome (and slightly irritating) boys next door, and a healthy dose of sarcasm, Love and Other Alien experiences is a fantastic and fun book.
Mallory hasn’t left her house in months. She attends school via webcam and spends her free time on the local online alien discussion board, where she enjoys arguing with the irritating BeamMeUp. But her mother is worried about her, and Mallory’s brother, Lincoln, and best friend, Jenni, are determined to force Mallory back into society and the world outside her bedroom. Their big idea is helping Mallory win the homecoming queen crown when she is shockingly nominated. Mallory has her own plan, hoping the prize money will help her reconnect with her father.
This book so easily could have been ridiculous or overly dramatic or trite. Most of the book is based around the lead up to naming the homecoming court winners and there is nothing that says overdone teen romance cliches like homecoming. And yet it’s is a genuine and very enjoyable story, both amusing and touching. There is nothing that is overdone or eye-roll worthy, and just when you think things will descend into the predictable, there is something that shakes it up.
This book deals with some heavier issues, namely Mallory’s agoraphobia and her father’s abandonment. On the lighter side is the whole homecoming madness, her joking and planning with Lincoln and Jenni, and of course the boys next door. While this book could, by definition of there being two main boys with possible romantic potential in this story, aside from Mallory’s brother, fall under the ‘love triangle’ banner, it has none of the ridiculous drama that can result from love triangles. While the romance, slowing unfolding and surprising in its charm and sweetness, is a great aspect of this story, it is Mallory and her story that it the true standout of this book.
Mallory is a strong character, despite her fear of what lies outside her front door. Her voice is refreshing and her use of humour and sarcasm is so much fun. Mallory’s family moto is “why be serious when you can be sarcastic”, so there is no shortage of great lines. In fact, the whole book is enjoyable, and yet it doesn’t shy away from dealing with the hard stuff, which adds a depth and reality to this lighthearted book. Mallory struggles to balance her desire to stay inside where it’s safe with her need to piece her family back together. She wants to overcome her phobia, but it takes realising what her fear is stealing from her to force her to reevaluate the way she interacts with those around her. My only complaint: I wanted more scenes with Jack, and maybe more of an explanation about how he knew who she was.
Love and Other Alien Experiences was a surprise, both because of its refreshing humour, but also its ability to mix the harsh reality of life with a phobia with all the romance, laughs and high school drama you expect from a young adult contemporary.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Agoraphobia, family, friendships, social media, romance, science-fiction,
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Infrequent coarse language, s***, dou***
Published: 20 October 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.