William Alexander

Author William Alexander has a lot of fun with this book playing with the idea of "alien" -- and twining together two narratives: one about a space alien who comes to recruit a new inter-galactic ambassador from Earth, and another about the new Ambassador's human family, which gets detailed by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) over the course of the novel.  The main character, Gabe, is an 11-year-old, is shocked when a blob like alien asks him to be a space ambassador, but as the alien, Envoy, has learned, Gabe is still young enough to accept the post and the strangeness that comes with it.  He is not yet too cynical to believe that there is active, intelligent life beyond humans. So, Gabe embarks on a number of journeys, to meet with other ambassadors, soon learning that Earth is in trouble.  Another alien group will soon take over the planet -- and in the meantime, someone is distinctly trying to kill him (and even implodes his home).  What makes the surreal believable is Gabe's very realistic relationships with his best friend Frankie, his mom and dad, his older sister, and his twin baby brother and sister.  Gabe is kind and thoughtful, though he gets into the usual pre-teen scrapes. But, then, while he is fight aliens, his parents, who are from Mexico and do not have papers to live and work in the United States, are taken into custody.  His dad is to be immediately deported. His older sister, who is also without papers is in hiding, in a space previously used on the Underground Railroad and helping Central American refugees.  It all sound a little far-fetched, and maybe it is, but in an utterly charming way.  The ways in which this book ties together the future and the past is best encapsulated in the moment when the 11-year-old human ambassador, look at an alien, and explains that he's giving her people a free pass to harvest ice and hide in a local asteroid belt with the following quote, "I'm doing this because my best friend's house used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.  And because it is still a stop on the Underground Railroad.  You're trying to make your way north.  You're crossing the desert. You need water.  I won't be the one who finds you and turns you in. I won't tell the people with guns where you're hiding.  I will not do that."  This book is a good, fun read that not only contains some great ideas but alien spacecraft shooting lasers at humans, which always adds excitement. 

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