Friday, 19 February 2016

Review: Alienated by Melissa Landers

Title: Alienated
Series: Alienated #1
Author: Melissa Landers
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication date: February 14th, 2014
Genres: Young adult, Contemporary, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.
I'm a conspiracy theory nut, so whenever I get the chance to explore books about Aliens (fiction or not) it's almost always a great time. Provided that there's a believable basis, and their interactions with humans come with realistic consequences. Otherwise, count me out. I believe it was last year, or maybe even the year before, where Alienated was receiving a HUGE amount of hype, particularly in the BookTube community. It definitely peaked my interest, and I've finally gotten around to picking it up!

Though I wasn't completely blown away with the book, I definitely thoroughly enjoyed it! Usually in cases like these, where books are over hyped, I develop unnecessarily high expectations and almost always end up disappointed, though that wasn't completely the case here.

The novel's defining factor for me would have to have been the characters and their interactions. The main character, Cara is a seemingly normal teenage girl at first glance. She has a boyfriend, and participates in extra curricular activities, and oh wait - she's also a valedictorian. (Although I find this hard to believe when not once in the novel did it mention her studying or even doing homework?) Cara's position as valedictorian gives her the opportunity to embark on an exchange program, only the student isn't coming from another country. He's an alien. And he's coming from the planet L'eihr. Though the situation may seem ridiculous at first glance, I can honestly imagine this happening in our world. Cara's obviously excited about her opportunity, and though many other humans oppose the idea of the L'eihrs, Cara has a strange connection to the race as it was their advanced technology that saved her mother from Cancer. I thought this element was a wonderful addition to the story as it made it feel much more personal. Also, Cara loooooves food, which I loved. However, I felt that there really wasn't much to her character beyond these things. I didn't really pick up on any other points about her, such as hobbies, interests, etc. I also admired how Landers didn't go easy on Cara, she didn't make sure everything worked out, because that's how life is, not everything works out, sometimes it takes time, and I expect the sequel will see to it. But Landers wasn't afraid to put her characters through a little hell.

Our resident L'eihr, Aelyx was a great character. Initially he'd been very stoic, blunt and socially awkward. (For some reason her reminded be of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory??) Though this strange behaviour is believable considering he's just travelled to another planet and is being forced to live in an alien family's home. That's kind of a big deal. His banter was particularly witty, and I'm always super taken by socially awkward and blunt comments. I don't even know why, but it's great.

The L'eihr race itself was quite interesting and well thought out. The L'eihr race is so advanced in that they have bread out any incompatible and undesirable traits that may have the ability to hinder their society's success. For example, L'eihrs do not experience violence, and even emotions have been eradicated. It was also revealed that Aelyx's generation are clones of previous L'eihrs. UM I'M SORRY, CLONES??? WHAT THE YESSSS. That's so cool, you can't deny it. But at the back of my head the entire time I kept thinking that I'd experienced this before.. and it hit me. The L'eihr's bear a striking resemblance to vulcans. Not appearance wise, but the superiority in all fields! Only they have ponytails.

The L'eihrs do look quite similar to humans, except they have no belly button and four toes. As long as they're not green and make 'beep boop' noises, that's totally fine with me. Their appearance really didn't matter at all, since the conspiracy between Aelyx and his friends was what held my attention. Aelyx and his friends have a ulterior motive before arriving on Earth. They planned to sabotage the alliance between their people and the humans. I was really interested in their plan. I'm always worried that the plans will be ridiculously underdeveloped, but this one worked well to me. It was centred around biology and the earth rather than something ridiculous like attempting to assassinate the Human President. Also, I wasn't digging Aelyx's friends, they came across as very one dimensional, but now that I think about it I can probably attribute that to the eradication of their emotions. Aelyx begins as they do, but as the story progresses it's evident human nature is beginning to rub off on him, and he starts to express himself more and become more in touch with his own intuition.

Now, my favourite part by FAR, was the reaction of the human population's reaction to the arrival of the L'eihrs. With their arrival also came widespread paranoia. There were protests, activists, angry mobs, you name it. Landers really shows some of the attitudes evident today, these felt like such genuine reactions that they even got me a little bit worked up. It portrayed a very authentic scenario, because even in todays society people struggle with accepting things they deem as 'different'. People fear change, it's only natural. I think this was absolutely necessary to show just how controversial such events would be. For example, the HALO protestors getting violent and killing Eron - this really sets the scene and illustrates just how tense the situation has become. Sadly, I could definitely see this happening in our world.

The writing style was nothing spectacular, but it was succinct and felt realistic so I can't complain. It was well-paced and suspenseful and I was pretty much always on my toes. However, there was excessive use of American references, i.e in slang, store names, products, universities. I only recognised most of them because I've learnt them from other pop culture references, though I can definitely see how this may hinder a non-american's reading experience.

Now, Aelyx and Cara's relationship. We all saw it coming, but it wasn't as cliche as I had expected. I went into this book expecting some 'forbidden romance' and a lot of "Oh but we could never be together! Our people would forbid it!" type nonsense. While it's definitely the case that it's not ideal, they aren't melodramatic about it, and it felt incredibly lifelike to me. Their relationship had a real basis, and wasn't complete fluff. They each learn a lot from one another, and that often creates a special bond. They show their affection for each other in small but sweet ways, for example when Cara spent all that time cooking every possible dish to find something good enough to fit Aelyx's bland palate. That was cute.

Oh and that time Aelyx whipped up a dessert for Cara:

He left his room and marched into the kitchen, where he prepared the richest, most indulgent, and disgusting dish imaginable -- a bowl of fudge ripple ice cream topped with chocolate syurup, semi-sweet chocolate morsels, chocolate sprinkles, and, for good measure, a chocolate brownie from the pantry. He even garnished it with a handful of M&M's.
"Look what I made for you. A bowl of diabetes." 

Their entire relationship was adorable, and I loved that it had a really great foundation. I ship it.

My only other issue with the story is the believability of the politics. First of all, why push the alliance when the two races only discovered each other 2 years ago? Surely they would take more time to suss out the situation, right? But no, let's send some of our children to live in their homes! Oh, and don't worry about the hundreds of HALO activists who despise our existence, they won't take it out on our children! And then in the end 'The Way' relies on the opinion of one teenage girl, Cara to save the fate of the earth? Ok.

If you're looking for a laugh and adorably lovable characters, you'll find it in Alienated! That is provided you're willing to sacrifice a little bit of believability in politics, but other than that, it's a quick and easy read and it doesn't disappoint when it comes to being entertaining, that's for sure. It was a good surprise, I enjoyed it much more than I had anticipated, and took me on a very emotional journey. I've picked up a copy of the sequel, Invaded, over the holiday season and I'm looking forward to what comes next for our belly-buttonless friends! (oh, and Cara too.)

3.5 out of 5 keys to my heart!

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