Saturday, 25 August 2018

#CBR10 Book 62: "Love and Other Alien Experiences" by Kerry Winfrey

Page count: 269 pages
Rating: 4 stars

From Goodreads, as I'm once again reviewing books from over a month ago:

Mallory hasn't left the house in sixty-seven days--since the day her dad left. She attends her classes via webcam, rarely leaves her room (much to her brother's chagrin), and spends most of her time watching The X-Files or chatting with the always obnoxious BeamMeUp on New Mexico's premier alien message board.

But when she's shockingly nominated for homecoming queen, her life takes a surprising turn. She slowly begins to open up to the world outside. And maybe if she can get her popular jock neighbor Brad Kirkpatrick to be her homecoming date, her classmates will stop calling her a freak.

In this heartwarming and humorous debut, Mallory discovers first love and the true meaning of home--just by taking one small step outside her house.

Mallory has developed severe anxiety and agoraphobia after her father left without any explanation. She feels severely ill if she even goes to check the mail. As there's no way for her to get to school, she attends via web cam, and her mother has software on her computer to make sure she doesn't spend too much time on non-school related activities. While her mother and younger brother seem completely unconcerned (and actually rather relieved by her father's absence), Mallory can't get it out of her mind, and wants to find him, so she can discover why he just disappeared like that. Of course, she will need to conquer her anxiety enough to let her leave the house.

Unsurprisingly, since teenagers aren't known to be super empathetic or all that kind, she's pretty much seen as the town freak, and no one is more surprised to discover she's been nominated for homecoming queen than Mallory. While she would love to ignore the whole thing, there's a $500 cash prize for the winner, and Mallory needs that money to sign up for a bird watching trip she's sure her father will be on. So with the help of her best friend Jenni, her brother and the boy next door, Brad Kirkpatrick, she sets out to win the homecoming crown (even though she's still feels sick leaving the house).

Mallory spends most of her spare time watching The X-Files and discussing aliens on "We are Not Alone", an online message board. Recently, she seems to be hitting it off with another user, BeamMeUp, while in her real life, she keeps getting into embarrassing situations or arguments with Brad Kirkpatrick's half-brother, who's also right next door. I don't want to spoil things for anyone, but you haven't really experienced a lot of narratives if you're in any way surprised by the last minute reveal of BeamMeUp's real identity.

This was a sweet book, which as far as I can tell deals pretty realistically with severe anxiety disorder and agoraphobia and features characters that feel like realistic teenagers. The sibling relationship between Mallory and her brother (who came out as gay a year ago, and gets his first boyfriend over the course of the book) is lovely and her friendship with Jenni is also sweet, while there are some complications as the story progresses (stemming in large part from the fact that it would be super difficult if your best friend never actually showed up at school or left her house, and you were stuck defending her to everyone gossipping). The sibling relationship between Brad and his brother (while not dwelt on as much) also seems very supportive. Brad is one of those "most popular guys in school", who also turns out to be genuinely sweet guys, which is always a nice twist.

This is Kerry Winfrey's debut novel. Goodreads tells me she has a new book out this summer, and I am probably going to check that out too, because this was a quick and entertaining read.

Judging a book by its cover: I really don't have a lot to say about this cover. It's not hideous, it's not great. It gives the reader very little idea of what the book is about, but the colours are nice enough, I guess?

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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