The True Meaning of Smekday
by Adam Rex
They've landed. And they've taken off again. And now an eighth-grader named Gratuity Tucci ("Tip" to her friends) has been given a writing assignment about it. The winning essay on "The True Meaning of Smekday" will be placed in a 100-year time capsule. This book is, at least to start with, Tip's entry in the contest. By the end, however, it has become a very private memoir of how one girl joined forces with a many-limbed alien to save her family, and her world, from a menace from outer space.
With her tough mind, tender heart, and sharp wit, Tip is an enjoyable character and a belly-laugh-on-every-page narrator. The humorous stakes are raised by the fact that, writing for a classroom assignment, she has to watch her language. For example, in an early draft of her winning essay, Tip writes: "I nearly puked. Can I say that in a school paper? That I puked? Because when I said 'nearly,' what I really meant was 'repeatedly.'"
According to Tip's memoir, her mother was kidnapped by aliens in 2013. At least, so her mother said. Tip thought her mom might have gone a little crazy, but she changed her mind when she actually saw the aliens kidnap her again. The second abduction happened at the same time that the Boov - little tech-savvy people with eight limbs and a bubble-based language - conquered our planet in a bloodless coup and started herding everyone in the United States into Florida.
Tip decides to make a road trip of it, rather than fly the unfriendly skies with everyone else. By the time she reaches Florida, and finds that the United State of America has been relocated to Arizona, Tip and her cat Pig have been joined by a Boov named J.Lo, who for reasons of his own is on the run from his people. The first parts of Tip's essay read like a parable about imperialist whitey herding indigenous peoples onto reservations, reneging on treaties, changing the names of places and dates (such as changing Christmas into Smekday), and generally assuming their own superiority over the cultures they (we) have trampled on. The similitude cuts to the quick, right up to the point where a Native American character points out that the Boov are behaving no differently than the white man before them.
But then the stakes change. Another alien threat, even more disastrous than the Boov, arrives on the scene. Something even weirder and nastier is in store for the people of Earth, unless one girl, one Boov, and one cat (more or less) can put a stop to it. Though history doesn't remember it that way. Whatever history may remember, the time capsule will know the real story. And, privileged with an early peek at it, so will you. It is a peek you will enjoy, decorated with illustrations of polaroid photos, excerpts from a graphic novel depicting the history of the Boov, and (at the risk of spoiling the climax) over four solid pages of the word "meow" repeated over and over.
Adam Rex is also the author of teen novels Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story and the just-released Cold Cereal, which is supposed to be the first book in a trilogy. He has also written several appealing picture-books for even younger readers, including Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
If you would like to contact Robbie, you may do so here.