Title: The True Meaning of Smekday
Author: Adam Rex
Publisher: Listening Library, 2011 (print available from Hyperion, 2007)
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Starting off with a short essay on what she thinks is the "true meaning of Smekday," 12-year-old Gratuity Tucci tells a short story of how she knows the reasoning behind the new holiday—only to be told by her teacher that she needs to elaborate. So she tells a more full version of her story, basically how her mother starts talking about aliens who talk to her through a mole on her neck, how she ends up with a Boov (the aliens previously mentioned) named J. Lo, and their trip in a floating car named Slushious to Florida, the land allotted to humans by the Boov. After that abridged essay is written, she continues a secret, full-length version of how she and J. Lo cross the country to Arizona in Slushious, meet a number of colorful (and often eccentric, to put it mildly) characters, learn about a bigger threat to Earth than the Boov, and attempt to save the world.
This book is so incredibly rich in symbolism it's fantastic. I could not listen to Rex's words without thinking of Native Americans and relocation; it's pretty much impossible to not think of it if you know the history. It's an incredibly smart and often hilarious post-colonial piece of literature, disguised as a science-fiction story about alien invaders. Oh, did I mention all the satire Rex slips in about American culture? It's great.
Don't be scared away by that description though. This is also a fast-paced road trip story, complete with alien weaponry and battles, and lots of humor. Rex is truly a genius when it comes to poking fun at fantasy cliches, my favorite involving a blob of taco sauce. He also incorporates themes of family and friendship incredibly well, without making it hokey or sappy.
As for the audio version, Bahni Turpin is a master. She gives the Boov great voices, to the point where I believed it was J. Lo talking each time she read his dialogue. Everyone had a distinct voice, and her sound effects added so much to it all. This was one of the best performances I've listened to in a while, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good way to pass the time on their commute.
If you're looking for a smart and incredibly entertaining sci-fi novel, look no further. I've become a huge fan of Rex after this beauty of a book.
Disclosure: I got this audiobook from my local library.