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First Day on Earth

Review

First Day on Earth

High school. The proverbial melting pot of jocks, preppy girls, followers, and those left behind. Teenage angst runs rampant, and everyone, no matter what their station in life, at some point feels as though they don’t belong. Mal has numerous reasons to feel like a total outsider. His father left for no reason when he was younger and has had no contact since. His mother drowned her sorrow in alcohol, and he doesn’t know what she will be like from day to day. He has no real friends and probably wouldn’t want any based on the people who inhabit his school. Above all else, Mal doesn’t feel like he belongs because he’s been somewhere else --- he’s been abducted.

"FIRST DAY ON EARTH is not what I expected. Hidden underneath the perplexing abduction story and the complicated teenage life of Mal are layers of meaningful insights into the human condition."

They took Mal when he was younger for three days, shortly after his father left, and besides a bunch of bright lights and blurry figures, he can’t remember much. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen --- and that he could leave again. What reason does he have to stay?  Sure, there is the veterinarian’s daughter, Posey, who is not like the other students and is actually nice to him, but that isn’t enough. Mal does find some solace in attending support groups, especially the support group for people who have been abducted. He has never shared his story with anyone before, but after listening to the others in the group, he feels like he finally might have found people who would understand.

Mal soon bonds with one person from the group, a man named Hooper. Hooper isn’t judgmental towards him and actually acts like he knows what Mal is talking about. After helping Hooper find a place to live, Mal learns something he never expected to hear in a thousand years. Apparently Hooper is from another planet and was dropped off to see if there was anything of worth on Earth. Mal is immediately suspicious and blows Hooper off, but when Hooper shows him his star charts and tells his whole story, Mal begins to believe. Once Hooper tells him that he’s going to be leaving soon, Mal immediately asks if he can come along.

Complications arise, though, when Posey and another kid from school, Darwyn, somehow invite themselves along with Mal and Hooper as they head out to Hooper’s pickup location. They think they are going to a regular rocket launch, and Mal isn’t sure what to tell them. The road trip takes on other unexpected turns as Mal is forced to confront some of his biggest fears and ultimately decide if he’s ready to leave his broken world behind.

FIRST DAY ON EARTH is not what I expected. Hidden underneath the perplexing abduction story and the complicated teenage life of Mal are layers of meaningful insights into the human condition. Has human life turned ugly and no hope is to be found? Is it better to leave everything behind and start over, or is it worth it to try and work through your problems? And what exactly does it mean to be alone? If you’ve ever struggled with these questions, then you’ll feel right at home with this surprising little book.

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on December 17, 2011

First Day on Earth
by Cecil Castellucci