Monday, August 16, 2010
Review of Stuck on Earth by David Klass
Klass, David. Stuck on Earth. Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2010.
Most teens feel alienated at least some of the time, especially if they happen to be a bit odd or different, so when a highly intelligent snail-like being from another planet crawls up 14-year-old Tom's nose and takes over his body, no one notices much of a change. Ketchvar, the alien, has been charged with conducting a bit of research to ascertain whether humans are at all worthy of their own planet, or whether they should be exterminated so that a more evolved species in need of a new world can live on Earth instead.
Needless to say, Ketchvar finds much to horrify and dismay him, from the way humans have destroyed much of their planet, to the nasty way they treat each other (it happens that Tom is a frequent victim of the local bullies), to the depressing and dysfunctional nature of Tom's own unhappy family. Luckily, in the end Ketchvar finds reason to "believe there is hope for this benighted species."
While masquerading as Tom, Ketchvar never makes any attempt to adopt the vocabulary and speech patterns of a typical American teen, and so sounds quite a bit like Mr. Spock on a particularly pedantic day. Charmingly, no one seems to think this is very odd - apparently Tom, whom the bullies had nicknamed Alien long before Ketchvar crawled up his nostril, is one of those awkward nerdy types who can't help talking a bit like a computer. What folks do notice is that Ketchvar is quite a bit more mature and insightful than Tom ever was, which helps some situations and relationships while hindering others.
In one delightful twist, Tom is sent to the school counselor due, in part, to his stated belief that he is in fact an alien named Ketchvar. (Ketchvar sees no reason not to be honest about his mission, so long as he doesn't endanger it). After the counselor suggests that this belief is an "empowerment fantasy" used as a refuge to escape from constant bullying and abuse, Ketchvar begins to suffer an intense, teen-like identity crisis. What if he really IS a human teen who just THINKS he is an alien named Ketchvar? The reader, who has no similar doubts, will be relieved when in fact Ketchvar's alien identity is affirmed.
Both deliciously funny and rather touching, this view of a tiny, seething corner of Earth by an outsider who turns out to be anything but objective will resonate with most teens. Highly recommended for ages 12 to 15.
Posted by Eva M