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Book review: ‘Alienated’ is fun, but tackles serious issues

'Alienated' is out now.
Disney Hyperion



Have you ever wanted to host a foreign exchange student? Letting a stranger into your home is scary enough, but what if they were from outer space? In Alienated, the start of a new sci-fi series by Melissa Landers, an overachieving high school student gets more than she bargained for when she hosts the first alien exchange student.

Two years ago, aliens from planet L’ehir searching for intelligent life in the universe found Earth. Humans and L’ehirs are nearly identical in DNA and appearance, but they don’t have much else in common, and the alliance between them is tense at best. What’s the solution? An alien/human student exchange program, of course.

High school senior Cara Sweeney is picked to host the first L’ehir exchange student, a boy named Aelyx. Cara is already valedictorian, Honor Society president, and debate team champion. She knows hosting Aelyx will be the perfect addition to her college resumé. What she doesn’t count on is the whole school turning against her.

Anti-L’ehir sentiments are already on the rise. Humans fear their alien neighbors are there to sabotage them; unbeknownst to them, L’ehirs fear the same. Despite the animosity, and Aelyx’s initial stand off-ish nature, he and Cara form a friendship and, eventually, something more. But Aelyx is still keeping secrets from Cara, including one that could threaten any possibility of a full human/L’ehir alliance.

Alienated is fun and light hearted, but tackles some serious subjects. It doesn’t take the super intelligent L’ehir’s brain to make parallels between the book’s aliens and our own world’s foreigners (or anyone else seen as different from the norm). Instead of vilifying either side, Landers makes it clear that both humans and L’ehirs are imperfect and standing in the way of peace. Even the relationship between Cara and Aelyx has its share of tension. But in the end, they focus on what brings them together, rather than what makes them different. Both Cara and Aelyx are likably imperfect, as are many of the supporting characters.

Alienated is a fun read with issues that serve as a metaphor for some of humanity’s serious issues. Even if you don’t enjoy sci-fi (or romance, as there is a fair bit of that), you might enjoy this one, so go pick it up. And look for the sequel, Invaded, coming February 2015.

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