Gosh, you guys. I really, really like this book. I think I might have a little bit of a crush on it? Is that a thing that can happen? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what’s happened.
The Book: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Genre: middle-reader SciFi (alien invasion)
First impressions: There are so many good things I have to say about this book that I’m not really sure where to start. The True Meaning of Smekday is the story of Gratuity “Tip” Tucci, a half-white, half-black 11-year-old girl, as she roadtrips across the US during an alien invasion, accompanied by her cat Pig and an alien named J.Lo. Tip is whip-smart and sarcastic, which makes her tons of fun to hang out with, and her dynamics with the invader-turned-friend J.Lo are both endearing and entertaining. Their journey is full of explosions and daring-do, but also small, touching human moments and quite a lot of slapstick comedy. Despite the sometimes absurd world-building, I never felt thrown out of the story, instead always eager to see what Tip came up with next.
What really floored me about this book, though, was its unapologetic commitment to social issues in its telling of this story. I mentioned that Tip is half-black, half-white, and it’s actually relevant to her character design and how people interact with her. This isn’t your “olive skin” YA protagonist description bullshit; she’s straight-up black, and sometimes that causes problems for her. Similarly, the world-building behind Smekday is basically just an anti-colonial tirade, putting “all of humanity” in the place of Natives, forced off their own land and onto impractical reservations. There’s even a Native American character, who takes the time to correct Tip when she uses the wrong tribe-names. When was the last time you saw somebody do that in any book, ever, much less a middle-reader? This book is the shit. I want everybody to read it.
Will it adapt?: Fuck yeah it’ll adapt. Honestly, I’m having trouble trying to think of a way to ruin this story on screen, and I’m not coming up with it. Although the trailer implies a lot of story changes, so I suspect they may yet have found a way. But then, it’s the same team that did How to Train Your Dragon, and y’all know how I feel about that movie, so I’m going to risk being excited for this one.
Should I read it?: Yes, yes, absolutely go read it. Before the movie comes out. Because if they did change the plot as much as I think they did, you should experience the delights of this book first.
“I remember Apocalypse Hal was on the corner by the Laundromat. Hal was a neighborhood street preacher who worked at the fish and crab place next door. He wore a sandwich board sign of Bible verses and shouted angry things at passersby like ‘The end times are near’ and ‘Seafood sampler $5.99.’ Now his sign just read ‘TOLD YOU SO,’ and he looked more anxious than angry.”
This post is part of my I Read It First series.