Book Review: Nowhere on Earth by Nick Lake
Pub Date: 26 May 2020
Read courtesy of http://netgalley.com
One word: derivative.
First, though, this book didn't know what it wanted to be. It felt easy to read, but right off the bat (chapter 1, paragraph 1) the author threw in "big words," which could easily turn off the reluctant reader who might have otherwise found this a highly accessible book.
Second, I honestly do not know if my high schoolers like reading stories where the teenage protagonist (Emily) is smarter than the adults, but I personally dislike that as a plot method. Yes, teenagers mostly do think they are smarter than their parents, but to make that the premise of a book, as if the teen is a superhero and the parents are clueless, gets old.
OK, back to "derivative." Quite early in the story I felt like I was reading E.T., the Extra-terrestrial. This feeling resurfaced often. Then the Men in Black reference was repeated (and repeated) throughout the book. Then the plane crash was like Hatchet. I even got a hint of Star Wars with a line that sounded like, "These are not the droids you are looking for." Then a little bit of Star Trek was thrown in with their "prime directive"; Aidan couldn't interfere with the Earth's history. I hit my limit when Aidan's departure mimicked E.T.'s "I'll be right here" and I pictured the author thinking, "Queue E.T.s glowing finger." That wasn't the last unoriginal reference, though; the goodbye scene with Emily and Aidan turned into the intro from The Big Bang Theory.
I found the author's descriptions of Emily's father to be inconsistent in that his personality didn't match his character in the end. Throughout she describe him as "all military precision and attention," "Emily's dad had many useful things in his backpack - that was his style...," "...her dad, sticking to the logic of the story," "She was still averting her eyes. Her dad would see her lies in an instant, if he looked into them," "...her dad said needlessly, and Emily realized something else: this was how he dealt with stress. By trying to understand, to analyze," and "That was Emily's dad: no need to discuss what kind of message, or how, or anything irrelevant like that. Pure focus on the plan." Then at the end,
There was an awkward silence, and then they laughed. They tried not to talk too much about the time after the plane crash - he parents told themselves a story abut it, that they'd been in a rush to get to civilization, but Emily could tell they only partially believed it, and that the best way for them to reconcile the events with the kind of people they understood themselves to be was to not think about it.
To be fair, there were some positives. The author obviously took a great deal of thought into making Aidan's character's abilities consistent and plausible. That's a real plus, since the story wouldn't have worked at all without this being tight and dependable. I was also pleasantly surprised at how clever the author had Emily be at the end with the man in the gray suit, playing like she knew as much as her parents did about the events that occurred.
However, I think the author did more thinking about how he could mix ET with Agent J or Spock than he did about making an original and absorbing story. <2 stars>