Genre: middle grade science fiction
Length: 426 pages
Setting: the U.S., present day
Interest: We needed an audiobook for a drive to Chicago. I was perusing the books available on the OverDrive app and saw this title. I vaguely recognized it and then realized from the description it was the basis for the movie Home. The kids and I enjoyed the movie (although I found Jim Parsons’ voice distracting) so I downloaded the book.
Summary: The story is told from the point of view of an essay contest that Gratuity Tucci is writing, with several iterations of the essay that tell more and more details about the Boov invasion of Earth. While they like humans, we make messes. So, the Boov have created Human Preserves, sending everyone in the U.S. to live in Florida. Twelve-year old Gratuity (Tip) Tucci has decided to drive herself to Florida to find her mom, who disappeared the day the Boov arrived. The roads deteriorate quickly, but she’s able to keep going when J.Lo, a Boov on the run, turns her car into a hovercar they call Slushious. (J.Lo accidentally sent out a signal to let the Gorg, the Boov’s mortal enemy, know where Earth was.) They get to Florida but the Boov decided they loved oranges, so they sent the humans off to Arizona. So, Tip and J.Lo are on the road again. The Gorg have arrived on Earth and are fighting to drive off the Boov. Slushious is damaged in Roswell, where a group of alien enthusiasts have holed up. J.Lo has to hide his true identity under a ghost costume, while still trying to fix up Slushious and maybe help the Boov in their fight against the Gorg. Eventually, they both make it to Arizona and find Tip’s mom. Tip and J.Lo then work together to drive off the Gorg when they discover the Gorg are deathly allergic to cats.
Final thoughts: This was such a fun book. And while apparently there are some visual aspects we missed, the audio version was excellent. (We all keep trying to do J.Lo’s voice. Only Mr. Curiosity is any good at it.) The book is much more complex than the movie, which is only to be expected. One interesting difference was Gratuity’s mom probably had a mental illness, so Gratuity usually had to be the one in charge in the family. The Boov invasion change her mom, though, and Gratuity had a very hard time stepping back from being the one in charge. We also find out that Gratuity is black (goodness – a black female protagonist!) and her mother was white (in a biracial family!). Even better, race isn’t integral to the story. It just adds depth to Gratuity’s story.
The book is full of humor, usually associated with J.Lo’s English syntax. (One of my favorite lines of his is, “Can I come into the out, now?” when he’s locked in a cooler.) The whole family would often laugh out loud and repeat his lines. I also found it highly amusing that one of the main settings in the story is at Happy Mouse Kingdom, set in Florida in case you need more help getting the joke.
Friendship is also a main theme of the book. J.Lo and Gratuity start out as enemies that are thrown together by circumstances, and Gratuity tolerates J.Lo only because he can build her a floating car. Slowly, though, we see the friendship bloom between the two of them as they work together to get to Gratuity’s mom. Once they find her, though, they don’t have anything to do and the relationship is much more strained. I had a hard time believing a 12-year old would be so self-reliant and imaginative in solutions to problems while under stress, but overall the book was highly enjoyable.
Title comes from: The name of the essay contest Gratuity had to enter as part a class assignment. Smekday was the day the Boov left Earth and when the Gorg where defeated.
Reading challenges fulfilled: #59 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge
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