Readers familiar with White's oeuvre—historical fiction written in a convincing Southern vernacular—may be surprised by her latest. It starts out as standard White, with a single mother and her two kids enjoying simple country life, and then, whaddyaknow? it turns out they are aliens. What follows is a mild Orwellian tale that breaks no new ground. Meggie Blue's family blends in on Earth except for fluorescent blue streaks in their hair that they dye or hide under caps. They've already had to move once, from California to North Carolina, and now whispers about their odd speech and mannerisms force them to flee again. Leaving in a rush, they fumble the coordinates and arrive in Fashion City on an alternate Earth, where they are repeatedly told, "You'll like it here. Everybody does," and everybody is popping Lotus, a tranquilizer provided by "The Fathers." Though the revelations about the Fathers' governance get progressively darker, the overall tone is curiously amiable, and the vagueness of the villain saps the story of the menace it needs to build tension. Ages 9–12. (June)
Gr 5–8—Sixth-grader Meggie Blue, her mom, grandfather, and older brother must flee yet again when townspeople discover that they are really aliens from the planet Chroma. They leave North Carolina in their Carriage, a vehicle that transports them long distances in a short time. They arrive in Fashion City, a universe parallel to Earth but one in which everyone lives in lockstep under the authority of "the Fathers." Curfews, monotonous factory work, dull computerized lessons, and "rehabilitation" are the order of the day. Everyone copes by taking mind-numbing Lotus pills and repeating their mantra, the book's title. Through their neighbors, the Blues learn that the Fathers are really corporate fat cats who suppress defiant and unique behavior in order to maintain their own power, and the two families, aided by Meggie's quick thinking, manage to escape to a Utopian-like society where their differences are no longer an issue. White's short, often humorous, well-paced chapters—some from Meggie's or David's points of view—will entice readers, especially those steeped in sci-fi lore. The dialogue is believable, the contemporary cultural references (e.g., Justin Bieber, Disney channel) ring true, and the Blues are generally well-developed characters. However, the novel's laudatory themes of personal freedom and individualism evolve into heavy-handed messages. The ending is predictable, and the characters' going off to a world where they can now "celebrate our differences instead of discouraging them" is a bit too precious. Readers used to the subtleties of Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993) or fans of Margaret Peterson Haddix's darker, antitotalitarian Among the Hidden (S & S, 1998) probably won't "like it here."—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, The Naples Players, FL
Newberry Honor winner Ruth White has a firm grip on storytelling with an edge. This text begins as an ordinary day in the life of a young girl named Meggie who harbors some bad memories of a crazy man that scared her when she was only eight. However, it soon takes a twist and reveals that Meggie, her brother David, her Mom and Gramps are anything but ordinary citizens. In fact, they are aliens from another planet who have been trying to fit into society just as other people do. When the townsfolk realize the family is from another world, the family must make a fast get-away in their tried and true Carriage which becomes better known as a spacecraft. They end up in another world where life is regimented and choices are few. They soon realize this is not the place for them even though all of the inhabitants tell them they will like it there because everybody does. They become friends with another family and make plans to utilize the Carriage to escape to a better world. In the course of the action, Meggie becomes the only one capable of flying the Carriage and saves the day. The plot in this book moves quickly, characters are well-developed, and resolution is satisfying. It is guaranteed to hold the attention of readers who love sci-fi adventures and those just looking for a good, overall tale. It could be used in the classroom to draw correlations to books like
1984 and Mockingjay. In addition, it provides a good starting point for discussions about peoples' rights in various societies. Reviewer: Nancy Garhan Attebury
Children's Literature - Nancy Garhan Attebury
When aggressive xenophobia closes in, it's time to record memories in a mysterious whistle, pile into an invisible spaceship and optimistically fly to another planet. Isn't that what everybody does?
It is for Meggie Blue and her family when their tranquil life in North Carolina is interrupted by townspeople rightly suspecting them of being alien. Though their native tongue is unusual and they sporadically sprout glowing blue hair after a certain age, the Blues are far from threatening and adore the sanctuary Earth provided when pollution destroyed their home planet. However, with their lives threatened, Meggie and her family vacate unwittingly to a parallel world characterized by destitute outlooks, subliminal mind control and really boring clothes. Alternating narration between 12-year-old Meggie and her 14-year-old brother, David, White (best known for Southern coming-of-age realism) paves the way for a relatively broad audience. And though the dialogue has occasional unnatural tempos, these awkward bumps can be chalked up to otherworldly speech patterns. Hovering in the vicinity of
ET, The Twilight Zone and 1984, the attractive science-fiction formula accommodates the familiar coming-of-age arc. More important is the underlying theme of originality. Meggie and her family repeatedly have to prove (even to themselves) that being different or just plain alien is more than okay—even if your hair turns blue.
A quirky commentary on age, environment, government and self-expression.
(Science fiction. 11-14)