by Adam Rex
Read by Bahni Turpin
ages: 8+ (though my 4 1/2 year old loved it, too)
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I’ve enjoyed audiobooks in the past, but I think it’s a rare occasion when I listen to an audio book and then realize that I probably would have not liked the book as much if I had read it. (The last time that happened was with The Tale of Despereaux quite a few years ago.) This was one of those books. Although there were a few moments when I wished I had the book to browse through, Bahni Turpin did such an amazing job with the narration, that I know if I had read the book I would not have had as good of an experience with it.
But, the audiobook? I loved it. (As did all the girls, for the record. And they didn’t even hear the whole thing. We need to go on a nine hour roadtrip so they can all hear all of it. Amanda, you want some visitors??)
The story begins with a school assignment. Gratuity Tucci (“my friends call me Tip”) is assigned to write, for the National Time Capsule contest, an essay answering the question: What is the true meaning of Smekday. See, a year earlier, aliens called the Boov invaded Earth, which they renamed Smekland, on Christmas (henceforth known as Smekday). Gratuity has an interesting story: her mother was kidnapped by the Boov, and Gratuity with her cat (named Pig), set off to Florida (where all the humans were being relocated) to find her mom. Along the way, she falls in with a renegade Boov named J.Lo, who has made a bit of a mistake of his own. The long and short of it is that because of J.Lo’s mistake, and because of Gratuity’s determination, it ends up being their job to save the world.
It’s hilarious, especially as read by Turpin. The voices she picks for the Boov, were at first annoying, but by the end of the book became endearing. You could tell the personalities of the people from the voices she chose. And the book was so funny — I wish I had a copy here to pull out one liners — from the pokes at pop culture to the Boov massacring English, it had us all in stitches. But that’s not to say it’s all fun-and-games; Rex pairs the funny with a darker undertone: there’s strains of Manifest Destiny and imperialism going on. Aren’t the Boov doing to us what we did to the Native Americans, or what the British did to so many other countries? I’m sure my younger kids didn’t pick up on that, but I found it interesting. There’s also themes of prejudice and stereotyping, and going beyond first impressions to find the truth of a person, race or species. It’s fascinating.
I also discovered that listening to the story, for me at least, ramped up the suspense. I couldn’t flip to the back of the book to find out how it ended (confession: yes, I do that). I was forced to listen, to wonder where the HECK was he going with the story, and how in Smekland was it all going to turn out?
Highly, highly recommended.