First Day on Earth

earthCecil Castellucci’s latest is First Day on Earth, a succinct, poignant short novel about a teen who is an alien in his own life.

Mal is a loner. An observer of the idiocy of high school, reluctant caretaker of his alcoholic mother, and lonely as hell.  He would never admit that, of course, but  ever since his dad left him and his mom, Mal’s been adrift.  And something strange and secret happened to him out in the Mojave desert that he still can’t get over – he was abducted by aliens.  Trying to survive high school, his messed up home life, and the wrenching pain of his father’s abandonment has led Mal to seek group help – both AlaTeen and a UFO survivors support group.  Almost unwittingly, Mal finds himself spending time with a curious guy, Hooper, and two kids from school – overweight brown-noser Darwyn and popular, pretty Posey.  As Mal, Darwyn and Posey try to help Hooper get home, Mal eventually realizes that everyone feels like an outsider.  Its only through the effort of making honest connections with the other weirdos, aliens, and messed up kids that surround you that you can ever feel like you belong.

There were a number of things in First Day on Earth that reminded me of Printz Honoree tales of the MADMAN underground:  alcoholic mother completely incapacitated by her addiction; a hardworking, responsible son who sacrifices himself to take care of her; a father absent since middle school, the scars of which still sear; and a group of misfit friends all trying their damnedest to figure out how to survive high school and the end of their teenage years.  First Day on Earth isn’t as long, as gritty or as on the edge as tales of the MADMAN underground, but it still captures with brilliantly painful clarity its protagonist’s angst, anger, and alienation.

  • Posted by Cori

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