I just read a scathing review of this book on Goodreads. Was it flawless? No. Were the characters in-depth and multi-dimensional? Not in the slightest I just read a scathing review of this book on Goodreads. Was it flawless? No. Were the characters in-depth and multi-dimensional? Not in the slightest. Was it entertaining? It was decent.
I wouldn't say this book was awful, but I wouldn't say it was amazing either. It's right there in the middle for me. Mediocre. The writing isn't terrible. There was humor which I enjoyed. The premise was interesting. The scathing review said it wasn't creative but I beg to differ. The idea of an alien exchange program is pretty inventive.
Let's talk about the characters for a bit, first.
Cara starts out smart and savvy, a fiery redhead with determination. But as the story goes along she becomes more and more of a victim. She lets things happen to her and I didn't like that. For someone who was supposed to be so determined, stubborn, and headstrong, she was sure a pushover. She runs a blog that's pretty witty at first. Her journalistic need to find the truth is pretty much nonexistent once she decides she is in love with the alien boy. All of her friends abandon her, yet she still chooses Aelyx. Now what teenage girl who is even remotely popular at school do you know that would throw all of her friends and her ranking away for a boy everyone else hates? Especially as her life gets threatened. Cara seems to have a whole different moral set than most girls her age. I kinda wish there was more fight in her. That she would have started blaming Aelyx and searching for the truth behind some of his sketchy ways rather than becoming a milk-toast and sappy girl who falls for the mysterious bad-boy. Landers could/should have really honed in on Cara's journalist traits, have her discover the truth herself, and then have to decide if she would expose him or if she would keep his secret simply because somewhere in the ride she had fallen in love with him. That is the true conflict, to me, but it gets glossed over. Or something. I'm not even sure.
There's a part when she is confronting Aelyx and wants the truth. How does he get away with not telling her? He starts touching her. Instead of seeing through it, Cara gets all weak in the knees for him. What is that teaching girls? That their man can do anything he wants as long as he kisses her and swoons her just right. Ugh.
And Aelyx. The alien boy. I'm not sure why he suddenly falls for Cara. It seems to come out of nowhere especially after how much he supposedly hates Earth and humans. He obviously hates Earth enough to come up with a plot with his friends to destroy Earth. Even after discovering said plot, Cara is angry but eventually takes him back because he's misunderstood? What? And what's with the aliens looking just like humans? Landers could have had some sort of Beauty and the Beast thing going where Cara sees past an intimidating, otherworldly exterior and falls in love with him.
Tori. I enjoyed her spunk. But then she becomes stereotypical and betrays Cara for what? No good reason. For someone who was supposed to be even more fiery and stubborn than Cara, she sure turned her back quickly. While we later find that she wasn't entirely a traitor, it still just plays off as too convenient and dramatic for the plot.
Eric. Stereotypical jock. I'm not sure where the attraction is with Cara and him or how they became involved. I think it would have been better if they were just platonic friends that grew apart and Cara sees him and Tori hooking up as an extra stab in the back.
The parents. So goody-goody for their own good. Always making out which is gross. I'm not sure why that needed to be in the story. And they let their daughter get away with murder. And they hold their ground even as their jobs and social lives are at stake. I'm not sure I know of any parent who would actually do that. You would think at least one of them would start thinking "Hey maybe we should send the alien back before the town decides to tar and feather us."
The ambassador. Aelyx's ambassador or whatever is supposed to look old but not really be old. He's also monotone. I understand why Landers has him that way and it gets explained, but he's supposed to be a somewhat antagonist yet he ends up being forgettable because he's so drab. Speaking of antagonist...I'm not really sure who the actual antagonist is in this book. Was it Aelyx? Is it The Way? Is it Cara? There's just no telling.
Syrene and Eron. Aelyx's friends are alright. They serve as points to help move the story along but Syrene is too angry all the time to relate to. Eron doesn't get enough stage time to really be significant.
Despite the flaws in the character building, I didn't mind it. There are other YA books I've read where I have been frustrated with the characters all the way through reading. That wasn't the case with this. I just wish, for once, authors would create a love story that wasn't perfect, where the characters made stupid decisions and lived with those choices, where the headstrong girl stayed true to her character and didn't get swayed by some handsome stranger.
That brings me to the themes in the book. This is where I think Landers did a good job. She shows that tolerance and discrimination are real human acts. Cara does serve as the ideal in this aspect. She sees how her classmates and people in her town treat Aelyx and she sees a problem with it. Her parents stand up for Aelyx constantly. Looking at Alienated as a lesson in acceptance and overcoming differences sheds a whole new light on it. Beyond the obligatory romance (really, I don't understand the attraction just like with most YA novels out there) we find a story of how humans treat those who are different which is a theme that is entirely relevant in our time (Ferguson riots ring any bells?).
While I didn't hate this book, I also don't think it was my favorite. Now, that being said, I didn't like Divergent when I first read it also. It took reading the second and third books and watching the movie for me to really fall in love with that story. I will continue to read what Landers has to offer with this series. Hopefully she can add some elements and depth that will catapult it from mediocre to outstanding. ...more