By Ekta R. Garg
August 5, 2020
Genre: YA fiction
Release date: August 4, 2020
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
In order to get out of trouble for a science experiment gone wrong, two teens convince their entire town that aliens have landed. Soon the hoax spins out of their control, and the brothers have just as hard a time as anyone else remembering that the aliens “came” because of them. Author Chelsea Sedoti treats her characters with humor and compassion in the funny YA novel It Came from the Sky.
Gideon Hofstadt has one simple rule for involving his older brother, Ishmael, in science experiments: not to involve him. Even at 16, Gideon is a serious scientist, and Ishmael is…not. He’s a goofball, more interested in enjoying his senior year of high school. It’s better not to let him help so that Gideon can conduct his experiments and work toward admission to MIT and his dream job at NASA.
Except Ishmael keeps badgering him to help with the one experiment that’s truly a two-person job. Gideon caves and lets Ishmael set the explosives around their family farm in Lansburg, Pennsylvania, so he can create literal waves on a seismograph in Ohio. Doing an experiment that will manifest on a scientific instrument hundreds of miles away makes Gideon so excited he doesn’t consider what could possibly go wrong.
And it does with a blast. Instead of a small explosion, Ishmael’s “help” craters the farm. As in, an actual crater is blown into the land. When their parents and the police arrive, Ishmael blurts out that aliens visited the farm. The news starts to spread like wildfire.
Before long people from across the region and then across the country start to trek to the site of the “alien landing.” Some totally believe the aliens were there; others are just curious about all the fuss. They’re coming to town in droves, though, and setting up camp, waiting for the aliens to come back.
One of these people is J. Quincy Oswald, the creator and CEO of a line of health products called myTality. Gideon can’t stand the guy, but his mother is enamored with the man. As a top distributor of the myTality product line, Gideon and Ishmael’s mother swears by the stuff.
Things really start to get weird when Oswald claims to have been visited and even abducted by aliens himself. Gideon doesn’t know what to make of it all at first, but he figures out soon enough that Oswald must be running a hoax of his own. The more he digs, the more he realizes that hoax might have darker implications. Now it’s a matter of who out-hoaxes who…that is, if Gideon can keep ignoring that little voice in the back of his head that urges him to give himself up and do the right thing.
Author Chelsea Sedoti builds a three-dimensional, relatable character in Gideon. His frustration with his brother is balanced by his affection for him. The two of them created the mess together, and even as Gideon’s discomfort with the hoax makes him hesitant to perpetuate it he can’t deny that Ishmael is right there with him every step of the way. The focus on the brothers’ relationship is refreshing and fun to watch.
Sedoti also gives Gideon a love interest and all the trappings of teenage love with it. Gideon views himself as a loser and doesn’t know why anyone would want to stay with him. As the hoax grows by leaps and bounds, so does his lack of confidence in his ability to keep his relationship intact. The juxtaposition Sedoti offers is an interesting one and true to life for the book’s target audience.
On the surface, the book’s premise might seem a touch incredulous but Sedoti backs up every single outlandish development with a real-life scenario just plausible enough to make it happen. While Sedoti might be faulted for making Gideon a little too much like characters from “The Big Bang Theory,” she still gets full marks for rounding out Gideon’s superior intellect with uncertainty. He’s a smart kid, but he’s also fully aware that even his most intelligent experiment is having consequences in a big way.
Readers who enjoy a fun book with a plot that blurs the lines of reality will certainly like this. I recommend they Bookmark It Came from the Sky.
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