It all begins with a school assignment. Gratuity Tucci (“my friends call me Tip”) is assigned to write, for the National Time Capsule contest, an essay answering the question: What is the true meaning of Smekday? See, a year earlier, aliens called the Boov invaded Earth, which they renamed Smekland, on Christmas (henceforth known as Smekday). Gratuity has an interesting story: her mother was kidnapped by the Boov, and Gratuity and her cat (named Pig) set off to Florida (where all the humans were being relocated) to find her mom. Along the way, she fell in with a renegade Boov named J.Lo, who had made a bit of a mistake of his own. The long and short of it is that because of J.Lo’s mistake, and because of Gratuity’s determination, it ends up being their job to save the world. After a cross-country road trip, of course.
It’s hilarious, especially as an audio book, read by Bahni Turpin. The voices she picked for the Boov were at first annoying, but by the end of the book they became endearing. You could tell the personalities of the people from the voices she chose. And the text itself was incredibly funny: from the pokes at pop culture to the Boov massacring English, it had me in stitches. But that’s not to say it’s all fun and games; Rex pairs the funny with a darker undertone: there are strains of Manifest Destiny and imperialism going on. Aren’t the Boov doing to us what we did to the Native Americans, or what the British did to so many other countries? There are also themes of prejudice and stereotyping, and going beyond first impressions to find the truth of a person, race or species. It’s an intricate balance of silly and serious, one which Rex pulls off with grace.
I also discovered that listening to the story, for me at least, ramped up the suspense. I couldn’t flip to the back of the book to find out how it ended. I was forced to listen, to wonder where the HECK was he going with the story, and how in Smekland was it all going to turn out?
Highly, highly recommended.
Rated: Mild, for mild swearing, all of which was followed up with “pardon my language.”