Series: Alienated #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on February 4, 2014
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads
Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.
Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.
Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.
But when Cara’s classmates get swept up by anti-L’eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn’t safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara’s locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.
Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she’s fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.
Hi all! Since Kate and Wendy had so much fun with the discussion review for Secret, we’re doing it again with Alienated! Unlike Secret, though, our feelings turned out rather mixed. A surprise to all three of us since almost everyone we know seems to love it. Come along as we discuss!
Kim: Oh man, I was so sure I was going to love this. I’d been eagerly anticipating this book for months. I’m a huge fan of the “emotionally closed off/stoic partner gently breaks down through love” thing, as well as paranormal romance. Unfortunately, there was a lot that was just…off with Alienated.
Wendy: Baa baa black sheep. I’m gently butting the two of you in our pen.
Kate: Yeah… It wasn’t what I’d expected, based on the blurb.
Kim: To start off with, I really didn’t care for either main character. I actually like that Cara is ambitious and even does some not so nice things in that ambition. I have a soft spot for ambitious girl characters. That’s not what bothered me. I thought she was just kind of obnoxious. I think Landers was going for a sort of folksy, sarcastic humor, but to me it just grated. I didn’t really care for Aelyx, either. He starts off arrogant, distant, and foolish (I won’t be spoilery, but he’s involved in a supremely foolhardy and foolish conspiracy). He then transitions to caring and, ugh, corny rather quickly. I wasn’t feeling it.
Kate: It was hard for me to get past the fact that from the very beginning, Aelyx was at least as bad as all the terrible, violent protesters (although the tone of the protests fluctuated really weirdly from peaceful to stuff that the cops would absolutely have taken action on but didn’t, like destruction of property). But we should like him because he’s cute?
Wendy: I understood exactly what the author was trying to attempt with all of the characters, but for me, the machinations just showed too clearly and I just didn’t find them charming.
I’ve seen a few reviews, in passing, that have mentioned how Alienated is a book about xenophobia. I guess in the most superficial terms it is, but it’s all done in a very breathless bubblegum kind of way–like the movie version would be a romantic comedy starring a pop princess with a bouncy soundtrack and there would be lots of montages. It’s so interesting feel this way about it, because I enjoyed Alison Goodman’s Singing the Dogstar Blues, which also has an alien exchange student. But that was actually, you know, a science fiction novel, not a romance novel with a few sci-fi elements in it.
Kate: YES. It actually felt, to me, like this would have made an ok middle grade book if they took out the swearing. The combination of trite, juvenile prose and silly characterizations with some serious violence and language was jarring, though. Just really, really uneven.
Wendy: I totally agree. The situations and emotions were all pretty simplistic, and while I like a lot of fluffy books, the overall tone, style, and content of the book skewed too young and immature for my taste. I should add that I would have been fine with a sci-fi romance if I’d actually liked the characters or romance, but…well, you know.
Kim: I really don’t understand how on earth Cara could be signed up for this program, in which she would eventually be traveling across the universe, without her (or her parents??!! She’s 17!!) consent. So much of the plot was nonsensical.
Kate: I laughed out loud when I saw that that was happening, and that she’d been requested by the aliens. There’s also absolutely no way that they would use TEENAGERS–and teenagers of opposite sexes, no less!–as their ambassadors. Teenagers are the worst people on this planet, and surely that holds true on their dumb planet as well. since we’re genetically identical (don’t get me started on the “genetically identical” nonsense).
Wendy: Aside from the ridiculousness of that, the liability issue is insane. There’s been some chatter around the blogosphere lately about teenage bloggers not being allowed into BEA without special permission, and I think people forget sometimes that if you’re a teenager, adults are still ultimately responsible for you. It’s all well and good for mature teenagers in day to day situations, but it just takes one slip in a store or one alien impregnating an earth girl (I KID, I KID, THAT IS NOT A SPOILER FOR THIS BOOK) and then all the sudden there’s hell to pay.
Kate: I wish that WAS a spoiler for this book. Hey, why were her parents so into the idea of her going? I was raised by a fireman and a secretary, and we had no money for sure, but there’s no way in hell they’d have signed on to have me go on an experimental trip to space. And Cara’s parents are so weepy about her brother’s being gone all the time. They whine about it constantly.
Kim: My mom wouldn’t let me take the 2 hour trip to NYC when I was 17, so I really can’t fathom a teenager traversing the universe with parents’ blessing.
Wendy: I actually went on a lot of school and educational trips in grade school and high school–what does that say about me? Or my parents?! But space is a whole different story. I wouldn’t want my kid trekking off into space.
Kate: When I was growing up, my dad lived in a different state from me, and I went to summer camp in yet another state, so I traveled a lot, but not TO ANOTHER PLANET. Everyone was super into Cara’s blog, too.
Kim: Yeah they were. I get it being popular due to the fact that she’s one of 3 human ambassadors, but it seems like she was absurdly popular before that. I did appreciate that the comments were horrifically realistic, though.
Kate: It would have been more realistic if she’d had eighteen billion spam comments about freaking Ugg boots.
Wendy: Hah hah hah. But yeah, Cara–sorry, CAH RAH, is super popular and nice and we should love her. She has red hair, you know.
Kate: Cara REALLY likes chocolate, too, huh?
Kim: That’s what hu-mon feeeemales do, Kate. They like chocolate.
Also, the book gets off to a rollicking start with some good ol’ fashioned gender stereotyping humor! A L’eihr elder gives the boy ambassadors a precious stone necklace. He’s “heard that human females cannot resist shiny objects.” *wink wink nudge nudge* Feeeeemaaales. What are you, a Ferengi?
Kate: That was so dumb.
Wendy: Your Ferengi reference is apt, Kim–no one is really developed well, and everyone is really only there as they relate to Cara’s orbit. I wasn’t charmed by the humor.
Kim: What did you think of the characterization of the secondary characters? They all seemed like weird caricatures/stereotypes to me. Tori’s behavior, particularly, was troublesome. There was an almost cartoonish feel. Actually, the whole book had a cartoonish feel now that I think about it. Even the “serious” political elements felt juvenile.
Wendy: Yes, they did. There were a couple of moments towards the end that were better, but most of the plot and characters felt pretty glossed over to me.
Kate: Tori’s characterization leaned racist. It made me really uncomfortable on top of the whitewashed cover (his skin is supposed to be reddish brown) and the “they all looked the same to her” comment about the aliens.
Wendy: The whitewashed cover fills me with rage. Haven’t we had enough conversations and blog posts about this that this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening anymore?
Kim: Seriously. Who do we have to talk to to get this abhorrent practice done with forever?? Obviously, this has nothing to do with the author or our feelings on the book, but it’s awful and should be pointed out. And stopped forever.
Kate: I had a pretty big problem with the female characters in general. They just kind of bummed me out with their lack of agency and not telling adults when they were sexually harassed (TELL AN ADULT) and what-not. Every single female character is defined by a male in her life. And saying there is a female president doesn’t count when you have zero female authority figures in the book. And don’t get me started on Mom’s whining about her book group’s wanting to read 50 Shades of Grey when there is crazy scary shit going on.
Wendy: Did any of the characters have agency, male or female? The aliens were the only ones who seemed to have any sort of plan, and even that was half-assed.
Kate: That plan. Was. So dumb.
Kim: It was really disappointing and disheartening. I was internally cringing the entire time about terribly the girls were portrayed. I just felt awkward and uncomfortable throughout. Not a pleasant reading experience!
Kate: Also, guys, I was pretty excited to see several of our pet peeves! There are two characters who share a lot of scenes named Syrene and Stepha! And the three main dudes are Aelyx (pronounced “A-licks,” which is hilarious), Eric, and Eron. Why not mix up the names, Author Lady? And all the smirking! And the chaffing of hands on arms!
Wendy: Reading over our peevish list made me laugh, because this book hits on so many of the things we talked about being overused. So many things. Aelyx is so hot. Cara has red hair. The comic relief. And on and on and on.
Kim: Is anyone else bothered by “scientific” explanations that make no sense? I was totally fine with just going along with “aliens that look just like humans” for the sake of the story (I mean, I love Doctor Who for crying out loud. I really am fine with it!). Then an explanation is offered up that makes no sense and I groaned. So some humans are descendants of L’eihrs abducted and dropped off on Earth 10,000 years ago, which is why blue eyes exist. Okay, but that does nothing for explaining why L’eihrs and humans are genetically identical since humans have existed for a lot longer than 10,000 years (and also we have a whole evolutionary chain we can trace). I should’ve added “inexplicable, nonsensical ‘scientific’ explanations” to my bookish peeves. It’s probable that most people reading this book really don’t care, but it bothers me tremendously.
Wendy: I think I stopped looking for reason in this book pretty early on, so no, this didn’t bother me, hah. Or surprise me. I like that the (sole?) concession to a humanoid alien’s difference to a regular human being is that they don’t have belly buttons, though.
Kate: The schmience in this thing made me laugh. I guess they don’t have belly buttons because they’re cloned? I’d assumed they were still baked in mommy belly ovens, though. I would not be surprised if they explained all this while my eyes were glazed over. I also laughed when Cara explains why she believes in God, and it’s, like, one really dumb and poorly thought out sentence, (“If you believe God’s powerful enough to create the Earth in seven days, why can’t He create other worlds, too?”) and Aelyx goes, “That sounds reasonable.” NO IT DOESN’T. And I hate the mentality that our planet only has one religion.
Kim: But she’s a master debater, Kate! Super good at persuading people! Her points are always good because reasons.
Kate: There’s no way Cara is good at debate. She makes terrible, illogical arguments.
Kim: I will say that sometimes the banter was cute, and I did genuinely enjoy that one hot scene. The one hot scene gives this book its extra half star from me.
Wendy: That is literally the only scene that I really enjoyed and made this book worth reading, imo. And it was strangely well-written and appropriate vs. the rest of the book, full of tension and sexiness and humor. I wish the rest of the book had been written in that way.
Kate: I agree. Really cute.
Kim: If the rest of the book had been like that scene I would have loved it. That was the book I was expecting to read.
Wendy: Yep. I got cute and sexy from that one scene, but I was annoyed throughout pretty much the whole rest of the story. And I know we nitpicked a lot throughout this discussion, but that’s what ends up happening when other things aren’t working for you. It’s too bad.
Kim: Ah, well. It’s unfortunate, but we just didn’t care for this one. I get why people like this, I do. It’s cute and light and there is some serious swoon (mostly in that one scene). This just wasn’t for us.
Kim: 2.5 stars. There were moments that were genuinely cutesy to me, but they couldn’t overcome the juvenile/cartoonish feel and the problematic portrayal of the secondary characters, especially the girls.
Wendy: This is a 2 star book for me. I do think there are a lot of people who will enjoy it, as evidenced by the sea of 4 and 5 star reviews pouring in for it, but I failed to connect with it on almost every level. If I were to guess the audience for this book, I think I’d recommend Alienated to readers who enjoy romance-centered science fiction that’s in the vein of Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series.
Kate: 2 Stars for me, as well. This is a really bad Disney Channel Original Movie of a book.