As my oldest child gets closer and closer to his teenage years, I find myself trying to read a bit more YA fiction in anticipation of what he’ll be reading soon enough. Not being very well-versed in this age bracket of reading, I sometimes have difficulty differentiating between YA fare and more sophisticated middle grade offerings. Cecil Castellucci’s newest book First Day on Earth most definitely fits into the YA camp for its emotional depth and depiction of adolescence.
Protagonist Mal has had a tough life so far, and unfortunately, he doesn’t feel that he has anyone to whom he can turn for support. Not that he would seek it out, though, for he has experienced abandonment from the people he trusted the most, and though he won’t articulate it, he is not willing to take that risk with anyone else. Mal’s adolescent angst is heightened by his personal experiences, which are more extreme than what is experienced by most teenagers, but the sentiment remains accessible and understandable to anyone who has ever been sixteen.
Add to this an extraterrestrial angle, and the story really gets going. I realize how cheesy that sounds, but I was impressed with the manner in which this odd plot line was presented. Mal believes he was abducted by aliens a few years ago, yet another aspect of his life that he can never talk about with anyone else. Or, maybe not. Soon, Mal meets someone who may understand his belief more than anyone else ever could. Readers will be rooting for Mal to find some peace through a connection with another, even if the possibilities, both earthbound and otherwise, surprise him the most.
First Day on Earth makes for a quick read, but a lot of punch is packed in this slim volume, and it may be just the book to suggest if you’ve got a YA reader in your life.
Though it’s been many, many years since Dawn qualified as a YA herself, she’s got a son who’s rapidly approaching this age bracket, so she’s gotta start boning up on the literature in this genre. Her own take on the world can be found on her blog, my thoughts exactly.