Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review: Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall

This book:

Mars Evacuees

This book. Is one of those books you (I, anyway) pick up thinking, "eh, not really my kind of thing, but I'll take a look."

Then you get carried on a wonderfully enjoyable ride, resenting when you are forced to tear yourself away to deal with the real world, and googling the author's name the second you finish the book, to see what else she has written.

"When Earth comes under attack by aliens, hilarious heroine Alice Dare and a select group of kids are sent to Mars. But things get very strange when the adults disappear into thin air, the kids face down an alien named Thsaaa, and Alice and her friends must save the galaxy!
For when plucky twelve-year-old Alice Dare learns she's being taken out of the Muckling Abbott School for Girls and sent to another planet, no one knows what to expect. This is one wild ride that will have kids chuckling the whole way through."
SO much fun! The book begins years after an alien invasion, and the back story is filled in quickly and painlessly by Alice, who can't remember the world being any different. This is both a character and an action-driven story. While the adults were frequently one-dimensional, they weren't really the focus, so it didn't harm the reading any. Alice and her friends became real people early on, familiar enough to make you perhaps think of someone you know, but stopping short of a stereotype. Teachers: you know that kid, almost always a boy, the one who disrupts your class but you just can't get mad at him because he is so darn FUNNY? The one you try not to laugh at because it will just encourage him, but he is really secretly your favorite? Quick-witted and energetic, you know he is going to do great things, but right now you need him to just be quiet for five minutes while you get the rest of the class through the Mogollon period? Yeah, he's in there.
Some wonderful turns of phrases are also in there, from the darkly funny:
"At this point we were interrupted by a demonstration of what to do if the spaceship came under attack or got into an accident (though clearly the real answer was: die.)"
to the descriptive:
"I could see at a glance she was another one like my mum - one of the few who were having a really good war."
(McDougall is especially good at describing people in less-than-typical-but very-effective ways!)
This is a solid middle grade novel that I could see being used in a classroom. Reluctant readers would dive right in, you have both male and female ( protagonists, bullying, a little Lord of the Flies action, battle scenes, family relationships, moral dilemmas...oh, and really creepy bug things! You could do a whole cross-curricular unit, with what it takes for life to be sustained, different forms of art and music, even the old "this many people fit on a life boat, which ones should get a spot" trope.
So, are you wondering, like I was, if McDougall has anything else out? Apparently she is quite big in the UK, although I was not able to find her other books available here yet. There is already mention of a sequel to Mars Evacuees, and you can bet we will be watching for it!

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