Book Review of The Only Alien on the Planet

The Only Alien on the Planet
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Helpful Score: 1

New student Ginny is intrigued by the handsome alien in her homeroom. No, this is not a science fiction novel. Smitty,real name Michael, is known to his schoolmates as "The Alien" because of his affectless appearance and complete silence. Soon, Ginny and Smitty's longtime protector, Caulder, team up to try and crack his shell. They get much more than they bargain for when they drag him along on old-movie outings; as a none-too-subtle plot device, the first turns out to be The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, the second, East of Eden. Smitty walks out of both, for it turns out that he was almost fatally abused by his older brother, who also convinced him that he would die if he spoke to anyone. With the help of Ginny, Caulder and a wise and sympathetic therapist, Smitty emerges from this psychological curse, and he and Ginny even begin a tentative romantic relationship. Randle (Why Did Grandma Have to Die?) unfortunately builds her otherwise well-crafted novel around an uncharacteristic response to abuse. Under his pain, Smitty is totally honest and caring, a very romantic figure, but not one likely to be found in the real world. Ages 12-up.

From Booklist
Gr. 8-12. Ginny Christianson had been a happy person: "happy, cheerful, easygoing, reasonably popular even." When her family suddenly relocates and a beloved older brother leaves for college at the same time--well, let's just say Ginny is a "displaced person." As life manages to go on, and fun, caring new friends begin to fill the gap, a strange boy at school captures Ginny's attention. Smitty Tibbs is a brilliant, handsome boy who never speaks. He is known as the Alien and lives in total isolation from emotion and communication--tolerated by the other students but pretty much left alone. Meanwhile, Ginny's new friend Caulder has long been fascinated with Smitty and is determined to break through to him. Together Caulder and Ginny take Smitty in and begin to probe at the barriers he has thrown up, the abuse he has suffered, and the resulting silence into which he's retreated. Ginny's deft and engaging narration reveals a delightful and totally believable teen. The otherwise strongly drawn characters sometimes delve into dialogue that sounds like social-work parlance, but we can forgive because the overall impact of this psychological novel is so powerful.