Written by Geoff Rodkey
After Earth is rendered uninhabitable for reasons*, Lan’s family are among the last 2400 or so humans living on the Mars base. When they start running out of food, supplies, and any other options, they are relatively excited to receive an invitation from the insect-like Zhuri and a couple of other species to come to the distant planet Choom as refugees. 20 years of deep-space hibernation travel later when the humans wake up in Choom’s orbit, things have changed and the Zhuri are no longer so enthusiastic about bringing in a species who just blew up their own planet. They nonetheless let one human reproductive unit come down to the planet and go to school and work as a trial: Lan’s family. Can Lan survive the school day and charm the Zhuri into letting them stay, and letting the rest of the humans come down as well?
On one level this book is a cartoonish/sitcom-styled sci-fi in which the goofball kid Lan, their despondent former pop star sister, and their parents find themselves trying to fit in with the mosquitoish inhabitants of a beige, hex-shaped suburbia on Planet Choom. On another level it is a sophisticated middle-grade satire and a masterclass in media literacy and political science that speaks to compelling contemporary issues such as the worldwide refugee crisis and the responding rise of populist/nationalist anti-immigration political movements, news media manipulation, and more. That might sound like a lot for an ostensibly humorous middle-grade novel, but I promise you it does not come off as heavy at all; it is light with some completely age-appropriate dark humor. I think kids will enjoy this on either or both the silly and serious levels, and it would make for great discussions.
*nuclear war, mainly
Correction: The text of this review originally referred to the character/narrator Lan as a boy. This was a presumption entirely made by the reviewer. The author kindly pointed out that Lan’s gender is never specified in the text. You can learn more in the author’s guest post on Nerdy Book Club: “One Book, Two Imaginations.”
Review by Joshua Whiting, Library Media Program, Educational Technology Dept.
Rating: ★★★★½ (4.5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 4-7
We're Not from Here
Written by Geoff Rodkey
Crown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House Group
Release Date: 2019
An ARC was provided by the publisher, but the review is based on the finished ebook edition.