Ixdahan Daherek (also spelled Daharek), an eight-tentacled Snaldrialooran, has illegally downloaded information from the Ministry of Defense and sold it to the Vrukaari, a rival species. He only did so because his father cut his allowance in half. As punishment, Ixdahan is placed in a transmog chamber, turned into the 17-year-old human Derek Dixon, and sent to live on Earth. There, robot parents will help him pass for a normal teenager. Derek’s arrival by spaceship, however, is witnessed by Lena Gabrilowicz. She’s on her dad’s boat in Felicity Bay when she loses consciousness, only to wake with empty beer cans in hand and a note nearby saying, “No one will believe you.” But she eventually meets the socially inept Derek and, at Skudderton High School, bonds with him despite his stilted speech and crush on her best friend, Callie Ann. Things don’t get truly weird until Lena is hospitalized for a fungal infection on her hands and extra “mutant” mailboxes begin appearing all over Skudderton and the world. Once Derek’s robot parents start malfunctioning, he suspects that the belligerent Vrukaari plan to invade—and it’s all his fault. Author Laporta sets up his snarky epic quickly, establishing Earth as a backwater “Level 2 civilization,” full of “ape-descended, gas-breathing bipeds.” Derek’s robot parents are equally amusing, often speaking with exaggerated cheer: “Finally made it up, Sleepy Head?” But the real joy of this narrative is watching Derek grow to care for the supposedly inferior earthlings, especially Lena, who’s a “sentient creature like himself, curious about the texture of the universe and the meaning of life.” And, holding it all together is Laporta’s spot-on portrayal of life as a teen; while Lena looks forward to a career in either oceanography or metal sculpting, high school is a “snarling beast that devoured her time, slurped down her energy and roared for more.” A bittersweet ending rounds off this fabulous read.
An irresistible blend of wonky science and heartfelt storytelling.