Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Coming into this story, I was expecting something silly and over-romantic on the Twilight
level. What I got was a reasonably romantic, frothy, and funny read with the potential to be an interesting series.
So, here’s a breakdown. Very recently, extraterrestrials made contact with Earth. Surprisingly, their DNA is almost identical to homo sapiens’
genetic make-up. Their bodies are human, but their appearance and behavior is still quite foreign. As a gesture of goodwill, the “L’eihrs” have given humans a cure for cancer, and seek to initiate a friendly alliance. Because academics are a very important part of L’eihr culture, they enact a student exchange project. Three lucky human students, from the United States, France, and China will get to host a L’eihr exchange student, and spend the following year as a guest on planet L’eihr.
Cara Sweeny, one of our protagonists, is in the midst of relishing her summer coup d’état
of her school’s class valedictorian spot, when she is informed that she’s been selected as one of the three lucky, global valedictorians who will host an alien exchange student. Oops. Cara is more than a little leary of this “opportunity,” but, ultimately, the overachiever in her can’t pass over such a juicy resume-stuffer.
Aelyx, pronounced “A-licks”, is Cara’s L’eihr guest, and the book’s other protagonist and narrator. He is very disgruntled over his new ambassador position, and we soon discover that he and his fellow L’eihr exchange students have their own, insubordinate motives for their stay on Earth. Teenagers.
Aelyx the alien really is the star of this book. For fans of Spock from Star Trek
especially, Aelyx will ring your bell. He is amusingly uptight and deadpan, and his initial days on Earth make for the book’s funniest moments. Cara wasn’t a bore by any means, but she did get washed out relative to Aelyx’s vibrant character. Her personality was additionally weakened by her having nothing to do besides think of and react to Aelyx. Fortunately, Cara’s persuasive debate skills and shark-like tenacity are in play for her future development, and the next installment promises a lot of opportunity for Cara to come into her own as a character.
I do have a few quibbles — obviously this story is not to be taken super seriously, but I found certain coincidences to be a little too convenient. For instance, the three most ambassador-worthy L’eihrs all happen to be long-standing friends and roommates? Really? And, Cara Sweeny’s brother just so happens to be the first human to go to L’eihr? How symmetrical. But, really, those complaints are negligible, especially as Landers’ writing is unapologetic about its distance from reality.
On the whole, this was a solid start to what promises to be a fun and entertaining series. This first installment was focused especially on romance, but the second book has the potential for a great deal more world-building, intrigue, and adventure. I’ll be looking forward to it.