thought-provoking read

By Cecil Castellucci
Scholastic, $17.99, 150 pages

Mal. In Spanish it means bad. For one needy teenage boy, the main character in Cecil Castellucci’s newest young adult novel, it is his name. Mal’s life is made up of bad memories and experiences. His father deserted him several years ago to start a new family. His mom, an alcoholic, is unable to care for her son. Mal is treated like an outsider at school and has no friends. He is lonely and unhappy. First Day on Earth follows Mal as he struggles to make sense of his surroundings and find his identity. In addition to being abandoned, Mal believes he was abducted. The majority of the book focuses on how he deals with this secret. Things get challenging as he gets to know Hooper, a man he meets at an abductees meeting. Hooper tells Mal he is an alien. Readers must sort out whether or not Mal was abducted by them. Castellucci forces her audience to consider what it means to be an alien and to feel alienated. She has authored many young adult novels and is familiar with writing about teenagers. This is a great book for young readers who find it hard to fit in. Emotional topics like divorce and alcoholism are discussed throughout the story. Chapters vary in length, some are as long as ten pages and others are as short as ten words. This makes for a quick yet thought-provoking read.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin


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