THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY by Adam Rex is a hilarious book about a girl whose mom has been abducted by an alien species that takes over the earth and forces all the humans to leave their homes. Hilarious. I mean it. Oh, and also, this is a book for kids.
The hero of the story is an 11-year-old girl named Gratuity (it didn't mean what her mom thought it did). When the moving orders come down from the Boov invaders, she sets off in the car she's learned to drive, accompanied only by her cat, Pig. They soon run into trouble and receive unexpected assistance from one of the aliens, who calls himself J.Lo. He's friendly and eager to help, but he's also frightened, because he's made a very big mistake that will result in serious trouble for everyone on earth, both human and Boov.
Gratuity reluctantly teams up with J.Lo, and they go on a wild road trip across America, dodging obstacles and attacks and bickering all the way. They spend some time with an underground would-be rebel group at Happy Mouse Kingdom, a wonderful alternate version of Disney World (amusingly, the novel is published by Disney Books). In the course of the journey, Gratuity and J.Lo learn more about each other's cultures and form a strong bond that allows them to work together to save the world.
THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY is a very clever book in a variety of ways. It's funny throughout, full of wordplay, ridiculous misunderstandings, and astute observations, particularly about the behavior of grownups. The book is enhanced with great illustrations by the author and even a few sections in comic book form. At times, the story points out or implies comparisons between the alien treatment of earthlings and the past actions of invading human civilizations, but the message is never heavy-handed.
I'm an adult reader, and I enjoyed this book and didn't feel it was too young for me. But it's written for children (or at least, marketed for children) with a designation for ages 8 and up. All the material is appropriate for kids, though some of it may go over the heads of very young readers. This would be an excellent book for a family to read and discuss together.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ A Beyond the Margins contributor shares a 1960s essay by his father that shows how little a Day in the Life of a Writer has changed: "2:17 – Pose before mirror. Believe profile with pipe will be best for book jacket picture. 2:26 – Start third paragraph."