May 15, 2015

Review: From A Distant Star by Karen McQuestion

Love trumps logic every time, she'd said. He didn't understand at first, but now he did.

The Book Rest - YA Book Review - From A Distant Star by Karen McQuestionTitle: From A Distant Star
Author: Karen McQuestion
Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: A-
Recommended For: fans of Pivot Point by Kasie West and other contemporary YA sci-fi/fantasy
Source: ARC

One-sentence review: A refreshing examination of the human race through the eyes of an alien where he learns to understand why humans on Earth act, fight and love the way they do while he searches for a way home.

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

This week I'm sharing one of my favorite debuts of the year, Karen McQuestion's YA sci-fi adventure From A Distant Star. This book will be released next Tuesday, May 19, and I recommend you pre-order now!

When Emma's boyfriend, Lucas, is miraculously cured of terminal cancer she is elated. But her elation turns to suspicion when she realizes Lucas is nothing like he used to be. In fact, he behaves like he's from a different planet. Emma quickly comes to discover her boyfriend isn't her boyfriend at all, but the essence of a (non-threatening) alien scout from another planet who crash landed on Earth and is now inhabiting Lucas' body. If Emma wants Lucas back and the alien (dubbed Scout) wants to return home, they must work together to find a way to make contact with his planet and dodge a series of obstacles along the way.

I realize that synopsis sounds crazy, but this book is awesome. I'm not a huge fan of alien stories, mainly because I'm not a fan of horror stories and generally aliens are classified as threatening. But From A Distant Star is not like that; in fact, it's not like any story I've ever read before.

Scout, the alien essence that crash lands on Earth is gentle, thoughtful, and kind. His alien race has surpassed humans on Earth not only technologically, but also mentally and emotionally. He has problems reconciling human problems with their actions. He questions why people do things like drink alcohol to escape their problems instead of just solving their problems. He can't comprehend why people make decisions based on the way they feel or why they hurt each other (until, of course, he's faced with strong emotions himself).

Similarly through her experience with Scout, Emma learns to more carefully consider her actions. She questions and challenges her preconceived notions because she's able to see them through the eyes of her new friend. It's also funny to see how Emma explains Earthen culture to Scout. The dichotomy between Scout and Emma's experiences as alien and Earthling is incredibly refreshing. Many authors use different races, sexes or cultures to explore the human experience, but I've never read a story where the species are examined on such a level that sparks quality dialogue about the human race. Similar to McQuestion's Edgewood series, From A Distant Star would make a wonderful book for parents to read alongside their teenagers to create important conversations (all while being thoroughly entertained, of course).

Technically I think this book is written with simple enough prose despite its complex ideas that even young teens would be able to understand and relate to it. But I have one very big complaint: one sentence about sex. It's not even explicit or racy or trashy, but Emma mentions that she and Lucas "were just a breath away from having sex". In my opinion, I just didn't think this book needed that. I was able to appreciate the intensity of Emma and Lucas' teen relationship without the sentence that essentially isolated readers aged 12-15. Obviously that's up to the discretion of parents and/or readers, but in my (old fashioned) opinion that sentence kind of spoiled things for me. It won't be the same for everyone, I know, but I felt like it cheapened a good, non-sexual story.

My only other major complaint was the pacing at the beginning. The book began interesting enough, but it took so long to get to Emma and Scout's adventure toward resolving their problem. There's a magical element to the story that I didn't think was necessary, I think if that was eliminated the story would have read much more fast-paced and exciting. Once it did begin moving, it was so fun and adventurous, I really enjoyed the fast pace. There are a lot of ridiculous things that happen to Scout and Emma on their journey, but that made the adventure all the more entertaining. I just wish the entire book started at this pace.

The dynamic that blossomed between Emma and Scout was my favorite part of this book. While I love how in love Emma is with Lucas, her relationship with Scout is an entirely different thing. I won't spoil it, but rest assured it's a satisfying relationship that overall makes this book especially sweet. I less-than-three Emma and Scout so much!

While there are a few things that I didn't love about this book, it didn't detract from my overall experience reading. I think this book is not only entertaining, but also important. It would make a clever platform for dialoging with teens, friends, or a book club about why humans do the things they do; why we behave certain ways; what we can do to change our human experience. For that reason alone, I highly recommend this book and hope you'll pick it up next week when it debuts!

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