The ARC that Scholastic sent me only weighed in at a measly 150 pages. I don’t know about you, but I trust skinny books like I trust skinny chefs (witThe ARC that Scholastic sent me only weighed in at a measly 150 pages. I don’t know about you, but I trust skinny books like I trust skinny chefs (with special exceptions for Courtney Summers’ books and Anthony Bourdain). So when I flipped the book over in my hands and wondered where the rest of it actually was, I was a little wary.
And then I read it. Drawing on that whole skinny chef bit, I sort of ate my words.
First Day on Earth is about a guy named Mal who’s got the world’s biggest chip on his shoulder. Y’all, he’s an angry and extremely pensive kid, and with good reason. His ridiculous excuse of a father walked out on him and his mom when he was younger, his idea of a good day is talking to his mother while she’s sober, he has nary a real friend in sight, his classmates are jerks, and oh yeah this one time he disappeared for a few days because he was abducted by aliens. And he really hates Earth and wants to leave.
It took a few (short) chapters to wrap my head around Mal’s story and his way of narrating. Like I mentioned before, he’s pensive and angry. But he’s a good guy and is just doing things the best way he knows how. What’s more — he rescues animals (!) and takes care of his drunk mom and makes sure she does important things like eat. But it’s hard for him to shake that whole “I’ve been abducted by aliens” thing, even though he’s been going to abductee group meetings. Plus, he’s still really scarred with his abandonment issues. It’s not until you understand why he is who he is that you finally start to sympathize with Mal. And when he’s imagined and formed by Castellucci’s words, it doesn’t take that long. Her writing is sometimes sparse, sometimes achingly descriptive, but you get a clear sense of knowing exactly who Mal is and what he’s going through, regardless:
From page 128:
No one has ever said I’m sorry to me. So maybe I don’t know how to say it, even if I feel it. Instead, I look up at her and try to tell her with my eyes. I hope she understands how much I mean it. I am owed so many apologies that I don’t even know how to give one myself.
From page 83:
I get that feeling in my chest. The one where I feel the hurt inside of me like an extra organ that was put in my body the wrong way.
Then there are parts where you get a sense of Mal’s wry sense of humor, even in the most serious of conversations.
From page 101:
(Mal) “Couldn’t you preach peace or something? Couldn’t you help us?” If he could help us, then maybe he would help me. (Hooper) “No.” “Why not?” “Do you help ants?” “What?” “When you see an anthill, do you try to tell them what to do? Tell them where a better source of food is?” “No,” I say. “But we’re not ants. Humans have a higher consciousness. Humans have souls. Humans have opposable thumbs. Art. Literature. Infrastructure. Quiche.”
First Day on Earth isn’t your plot-driven alien-action novel. This is not a book about adventure, nor is it filled with a bunch of funny one-liners. And this is definitely not a Kissing Book (but there is a smidgen of a crush!). It’s the kind of book that makes you think about your meaning in this world, and follows a story of a boy who just wants answers to big questions. And the whole alien thing? It certainly plays its role, but not in the way that you’d think. It’s woven in the fibers of the story in the way of theme, not planted as a plot device. First Day made me enjoy this story in a way that I didn’t expect, especially considering the fact that it had less than 200 pages and various one-sentence chapters that led me to its final page.
Not all of Mal’s questions are answered, but just enough were so that I didn’t pull any of my hair out, and it definitely left me thinking and wondering after I’d closed the book. The best part is that everything seemed to come around full circle — a book with a cover that sparked wonder, ended with it, as well. ...more