NASA has intercepted information revealing that an alien race will be deciding Earth’s fate in one week.
Against this doomsday backdrop, three teens must decide what to do with their remaining days. Adeem, a Pakistani American Muslim, lives in Carson City, Nevada, and misses his big sister, Leyla, who disappeared from his life two years ago after coming out as gay. Cate, a white San Francisco girl living with her mentally ill mother, wants to find the father who abandoned them. Jesse, who is gay and white, lives with his widowed mother in Roswell, New Mexico. Once word spreads that the aliens of the planet Alma are sitting in judgment, worldwide chaos ensues. Adeem, a ham radio enthusiast, hears a message from Leyla and sets out for Roswell, where the message originated. Cate goes on a quest to find her father. Jesse discovers a machine created by his father and starts a lucrative scam “sending” messages to Alma. The three teens’ compelling stories overlap and intertwine. Transcripts from Alma’s Interplanetary Affairs Committee offer clever insight into the moral dilemma faced by the 13 alien jurors who must weigh the value of human life against our species’ violence, cruelty, and environmental destruction. The inclusion of details of Adeem’s Muslim background and the understated acceptance of the gay characters are strengths.
Tautly plotted, with realistic characters and situations, this debut will please enthusiasts of both science fiction and realistic fiction. (Science fiction. 13-18)