A charming if lightweight science-fiction romance bogs down when it attempts to convey moral lessons.
High school senior Cara Sweeny plans on being the best at everything—schoolwork, debate, life. These ambitions earn her the ambiguous honor of hosting one of the first “exchange students” from the L’eihrs, the aliens who have just initiated contact with Earth. But while Aelyx might be completely human-looking (and a total hottie), he’s also cold and arrogant, with a major hatred for all of humanity. The alternating viewpoints convey their personalities well: Cara’s is breezy and chatty and studded with slightly dated slang; Aelyx’s more formal, occasionally gloomy and often bewildered. Although there seems little beyond raging hormones to inspire their intense devotion, the romantic shenanigans are entertaining until overshadowed by the heavy-handed, simplistic message that prejudice is wrong—a moral somewhat undercut by the reliance upon such stereotypes as the temperamental redhead, the bigoted jock and the vivacious Latina who sprinkles her conversations with Spanish obscenities. Once the tone abruptly shifts to science-fiction thriller, the willing suspension of disbelief snaps under the weight of unbelievable behavior, nonsensical science and a “happy ending” with profoundly disturbing implications.
It’s still rather fun in an after-school–special sort of way, but hardly an essential purchase or read. (Science fiction. 12-18)