Of Jenny and the Aliens by Ryan Gebhart
Published by Candlewick Press on August 1st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 368 pages Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble • Book Depository • IndieBound
Ten years after Earth sent messages out into deep space, there has been an answer. Music from a distant planet has reached the our radios. Are aliens about to invade? No one knows, and almost-eighteen-year-old Derek doesn’t really care, because at a wild end-of-the-world party, Jennifer Novak invites him to play beer pong. And things…progress from there. Derek is in love. Deeply, hopelessly in love. He wants it all—marriage, kids, growing old on a beach in Costa Rica. Jenny is The One.
But Jenny has other plans, and they may or may not include Derek. So Derek will try anything to win her—even soliciting advice from the alien who shows up in his hometown. This alien may just be the answer to Derek’s problem. But is Derek prepared to risk starting an interstellar war to get his girl? And just how far is he willing to travel to discover the mysteries of the universe—and love?
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from LibraryThing Early Reviewers and Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Of Jenny and the Aliens is a romance, a sci-fi, and a story that in many ways may feel too true-to-life
Aliens have contacted earth, and Derek is in love. Her name is Jenny and since the world is probably ending anyway, she takes a chance on him. She has a snowcone machine in her basement, and they watch Disney movies together. It’s great. Then the United States declares war on Raya, and it seems like the aliens aren’t invading, and Jenny wants to keep things loose and casual. Just when everything was coming together, now it’s falling apart, and Derek is helpless to change things. … Unless….
Of Jenny and the Aliens was a difficult book for me.
I am a reader who very much gets attached to characters. Give me a great character in a lousy book, and I’m probably all in. I hated the characters in this book, and the story was desperate and frustrating, but I am being a mature muffin… this book was really well written. Better than I expected. So I put on my Big Girl Panties and this is the review.
Derek is a whiny angsty young man. Jenny is selfish prat. Mark is the LITERAL WORST. The aliens are sort of crap heads, too. Mom is selfish, Dad is selfish, little brother Avery is a snob. Everyone in this book is a jerk. These are not the type of people I would be friends with, and they are not the type of people you see featured in most YA stories.
They are not… wrong. Listen guys, high schoolers? They’re not always smart or pretty or GOODNESS KNOWS mature. We were all in high school once and there were moments where we weren’t bright and shiny. Back then, we knew people who were THE WORST. We made bad decisions, drank underage, fell in love with the WRONG WRONG WRONG people. These characters? They’re at the time in their lives where they are struggling to fit in, to find their identities, and trying to figure out who to trust. They are well-written to BE those people. Flawed, horrible, but real characters. I hate them, but they were good.
I hate it when books take place in Los Angeles and New York City and it’s all glitz and glamour. Of Jenny and the Aliens takes place in the suburbs, in Ohio. OHIO. THE EXCITEMENT CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. The author lives in Ohio, so he gets the atmosphere right. It’s also a perfect choice because it feels decidedly like the middle of nowhere. The book is written to be about ordinary people in only a vaguely extraordinary situation, and an ordinary place is the perfect setting. This could happen to you. Or me! We don’t have to go to the big city to have adventures!
Okay, seriously, nothing happens in New Hampshire. Apparently, if you want to meet an alien, you need to move to Ohio.
Don’t get distracted by the aliens – Derek is in love and THAT is what this story is about. If you’re here for the little green men who smoke alien pot and eat liver and brains and magical eyeballs, you’ll get it, but it makes up for very little of the story. This story is about Jenny, and how Derek loves Jenny, and how Jenny also feels about Derek. And most the time, like in real life, it is awkward and messy and anything but adorable.
I actually thought that Gebhart’s use of the aliens in relation to the love story was brilliant. It reveals a lot of a mind young and in love and to what lengths people will go to when they want somebody to love them. Rash, and foolish… but what young mind hasn’t thought they would do anything if someone would just love them back?
Writing / Narration
In the first chapter, I slammed the book shut, stormed into the office and demanded of my husband,”What the CRAP is this!?” and proceeded to list off all the things I hated and thought were unrealistic. I read a few more chapters – because I’m the sort of person who feels she needs to finish a free book – and put the book away for a couple days, extraordinarily miffed at the NERVE of the portrayal of the characters.
Then I got off my high horse and thought about it, and realized… there’s nothing wrong with the writing. In fact, my deep and utter hatred of the characters who were so unlike me (or so I want to believe) actually made me realize how well he had written them. When I picked it back up, I went in with the mindset that I don’t need to be friends with Derek and Jenny, and that’s when I started to fall into the world of the book. I see other reviews saying the characters are behaving immaturely, or crudely… but I think they’re spot on. We’re not all the same, children. Some teenagers are really this horrible.
The reactions, the war, the easy distraction of the human race from alien videos to a political conflict… that all seemed really spot on to me. I think it was very well-written and immersive.
All that said, all praise of the writing style and perceived realism of human reactions… I didn’t like this book. And that’s okay. There are other well-written books I don’t like. Books like The Neverending Story and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My dislike of this book has less to do with the author or the story, and more to do with:
- The characters are jerks.
- The aliens are snobs.
- JUST GET OVER HER ALREADY.
- Too much boy talk…. #awkward
I would still recommend it to people a bit more interested in contemporary books, and I think there is a definitely lack of YA romance with a male protagonist (am I reading the wrong books?) and that alone is something. The Cover are is WONDERFUL and I’m really grateful to have received it and read it, but I am also happy to move on to the next thing.
Books I’d Recommend
I don’t have any specific books to recommend , because this is outside my usual genre (just a smidge, but still). However, I would recommend this book for people who like:
- Contemporary Teen Romances That Don’t Necessarily Have A Happy Ending.
- Aliens, But Not TOO MUCH Aliens.
- Contemporary Teen Boy Angst Protagonists.
- Cleveland Browns Fans Who Also Like YA Sci-Fi.
- People with a LOUSY Best Friend Who Want A Fictional Character To Identify With.
- Fans Of Things Like Independence Day And The X-Files… But With Angsty Teens.
If you identify with any of the above, definitely check out this book.