At an ordinary private school in California, a spaceship carrying alien prisoners has crashed, something has escaped and it’s up to three seemingly normal teens to track it down.
In Dunlap’s young adult novel, nothing is quite as it seems. Farrell, Izzy and Rom might look like normal teenagers, but they’re really aliens, working for the West Coast Division of the Committee, tasked with hunting down escaped alien prisoners. When a prisoner barge crashes onto the football of Lexham Preparatory Academy and a prisoner escapes from the wreckage, the three must disguise themselves as high school students to track down the missing alien; Farrell joins the basketball squad, Izzy befriends an outcast named Carolyn and Rom battles with his aging Math teacher. Dunlap expertly renders the three leads as complex, multidimensional characters. As the leader, Farrell is stoic yet cares deeply for his makeshift family. When he meets Nora, Farrell is inexplicably drawn to her as he sees past the façade she wears. Izzy may be the least girly of girls, but behind her tough act she can read the emotions of others. Rom, a genius when it comes to math, explosions and computers, desperately yearns for a real family. Although they may be alien, Dunlap makes sure that her characters have real emotions and human complexities. At times, however, our heroes seem almost too human; the reader only learns about their origins late in the novel, and the ways in which they are different from the humans of Earth aren’t fully developed. This slow reveal of information contrasts almost too sharply with the fast pace of the plot. But soon the three alien hunters realize that the cheerleaders of Lexham are swelling in ranks and acting strangely. Nora and an alien enthusiast named Bobby join forces with Farrell, Izzy and Rom to find the escaped alien. As they confront the escaped prisoner at the Halloween Carnival, they discover that this alien is, too, not what it seems, and Nora is right in the middle of the mystery. Despite some cliché plot turns found in most young adult novels and some bad one-liners, Dunlap’s prose is rich with character and setting details and vivid descriptions.
Filled with great characters, good mystery and a fun twist on normal high school appearance, Dunlap’s debut is sure to appeal to teen readers.