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The True Meaning of Smekday

Review

The True Meaning of Smekday

It all starts as a school assignment. Eighth-grader Gratuity Tucci (known to her friends as Tip) is assigned to write a story about the "True Meaning of Smekday" as part of a national contest. The winning story will be buried in a time capsule, to be unearthed a hundred years in the future, in the year 2113.

It turns out that Smekday is actually Christmas, the day when a race of aliens (known as the Boov) invaded Earth (which they renamed Smekland after their leader), destroyed its most famous and valuable landmarks --- from the Statue of Liberty to the Great Wall of China --- and forced its inhabitants to resettle in small colonies while the Boov themselves took over the rest of the world.

It also turns out that Gratuity, more so even than the rest of the human race, has a vested interest in the meaning of Smekday. Gratuity’s mother had actually been abducted by the Boov months before the invasion. While on the ship, she was tested on her language ability and on her talents at folding laundry. After her abduction, Gratuity's mom was never quite the same --- especially when she got sucked up into an alien ship on Christmas Eve, just before the main invasion began.

Gratuity also has a personal relationship with the Boov, or, rather, with one particular Boov who has named himself J.Lo. J.Lo is on the run from the other Boov for accidentally broadcasting their whereabouts to a particularly nasty brand of aliens, the Gorg. When Gratuity, who has decided to drive to Florida (the location of the American human colony), runs into J.Lo, the two join forces to escape from the other Boov and the Gorg alike. As the two drive cross-country, they rely on their limited shared language, on comic book drawings and on their growing friendship to cross the bridges between their cultures. The result is a road trip as riotously funny as it is bizarre --- and it's a trip that readers will willingly tag along on.

Adam Rex is best known as a picture book artist and illustrator. The clever humor he uses in his picture books is certainly abundant in his debut novel as well, as is his talent at drawing --- the book is illustrated with hand-drawn "photos" from Gratuity's journey, as well as by J.Lo's amusing cartoons detailing the history of the Boov, among other things.

In addition to being a wild road trip story and a completely original take on alien invasion, THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY also manages to include satirical (but surprisingly insightful) commentaries on everything from global warming to the state of Texas ("Who ever thought a state that big was a good idea? It's just arrogant.") to Walt Disney World to the resettlement of the Native Americans after European colonization.

Combine these social commentaries with plenty of action, a mission to save the world and a resourceful alien whose naiveté and know-how are both on display, and you have a novel with equal appeal for kids and adults. In fact, the best idea yet is for parents and kids to take this road trip together --- it's a journey you won't soon forget.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 5, 2009

The True Meaning of Smekday
by Adam Rex

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2009
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
  • ISBN-10: 0786849010
  • ISBN-13: 9780786849017