Since the book blurb summarizes the novel perfectly, I am just going to dive right into my review. Here is what I liked. Not only is the story written in third person which is a nice change from the first person narration usually seen in most YA literature, it also goes back to the old fashion way of switching perspectives. Instead of alternating chapters, Cara and Aelyx's POV are seamlessly blended throughout the story and each has a very distinct voice which makes this style work.
I absolutely loved Cara's parents, Bill and Eileen Sweeney. I know that may sound like a strange thing to rave about in a YA novel, but you can tell Landers put a lot of thought into these two characters. In YA lit, parents are usually missing, silent, or dysfunctional. But in Alienated, Cara's parents are a solid presence throughout the book. Their love and affection for one another is contagious, despite Cara's irritation at constantly walking in on her parents making out anywhere and everywhere. But what gives her parents that realistic feel is their backstory. Cara's mother had been dying from cancer. Thanks to a native plant from L'eihr that kills cancer cells, she is given a second chance at life. Cara said that before the cancer, her parents hadn't always been so lovely dovey. And that is why Bill and Eileen are so endearing. Not many people get a second chance at life, so instead of taking it for granted, they spend every moment...
rediscovering each other and their love.
While this human vs. alien tale doesn't raise too many new questions, one thing I did like about this story is the fact that while the L'eihrs are highly intelligent beings with superior technology, they aren't perfect. The L'eihrs may boast about their non-violent, climate controlled world, but they have one common flaw-- the thirst for knowledge. It's a subtle theme throughout the book, but becomes apparent once their problems with cloning is revealed by Aelyx. (You'll have to read it to find out :)
I was pleasantly surprised with the humor in Alienated. Some authors struggle with this, oftentimes going overboard or making funny moments feel forced. This is not the case with Landers. The humor is well paced and flows naturally, whether it's a scene or quirky word/phrase. For example, Cara comparing her parents' makeout sessions to "Geriatric Porn". Or Aelyx's reactions whenever he tries human food. L'eihrs are used to eating bland food, so things that we take for granted like pizza or lasagna is way too spicy for their taste buds. One funny scene is when Cara tries to convince Aelyx to eat chocolate:
"What's this?" He brought the brown square to his nose. "It smells musty."
"It's chocolate. You'll love it." [Cara said.]
"That's what you said about Skittles. I vomited a rainbow."
Even though Alienated is mostly a light hearted read, there were quite a few touching/eye opening moments that crept up on me, but also added more depth to the story. There are two that come to mind. The first is when Aelyx learns that love is the key to keeping his "fake puppy" alive. Cara and Aelyx are very competitive and it drives Cara crazy that no matter what game they play, Aelyx always wins. So she is surprised to see him struggle while playing "Puppy Love", an old game she used to play when she was younger. The object of the game is to keep the "puppy" alive. But no matter what he does, the "puppy" keeps dying. He "feeds" it, gives it exercise, etc. Cara finally gives him the key ingredient, which is love. This puzzles Aelyx, since love is an emotion foreign to him, let alone trying to figure out how to show acts of love to a fake puppy in a game.
The second scene that pulled on my heartstrings is when one of the other alien exchange students, Eron, tells Aelyx why he is having second thoughts about going through with their plan.
Aelyx asked, "What changed your mind, Eron?"
"My family." He caught himself and corrected, "My host family, I mean. They've made me one of their own. Especially the little one--Ming."
"The one who wants to play alien invaders every day?" Aelyx asked.
A brilliant smile curved Eron's mouth, so wide that it crinkled the skin around his eyes. "Families are only allowed one child here, but Ming was adopted after his parents died. He never thought he'd have a brother, but now he says he has one. "Eron shook his head as if in awe. "He calls me his brother."
I have to admit that lately I've been reading a lot of adult romance, so when I started Alienated, I had to mentally switch gears. I was about 150 pages in when I started to wonder if/when Cara and Aelyx were going to kiss. Imagine my surprise when their first kiss turned into one of the most sensual love scenes I've read in quite awhile. Now let me clarify that this book is very clean and completely appropriate for teens 13+. Melissa Landers knows how to write some really hot love scenes without the characters going all the way or getting vulgar. My favorite one is when Aelyx innocently teaches Cara Silent Speech, which is communicating with someone through the mind instead of physically speaking. L'eihrs aren't big on touching, so Cara tells Aelyx he doesn't know what he's missing when he confesses that he's never kissed a girl before. On the other hand, Aelyx arrogantly believes that his people's equivalent for "making out" is much more superior and effective then swapping spit like humans do. This leads to a very hot challenge. And they prove each other both wrong...or right, depending on how you look at it!
So here is what I didn't like. For a 350 page book, you'd think the chemistry between Cara and Aelyx would be explosive. But something was definitely...off. I tried going back and rereading some scenes to try to pin point exactly what didn't work for me. Therein lies the problem, which is with Aelyx. For the majority of the book he is this cold, arrogant being from another planet. Then suddenly, like a light switch abruptly turned on, he has embraced all of his emotions, conquered his issues with physical contact, and made declarations of love. It just didn't feel like a smooth transition or believable. I think a few more scenes with him opening up to Cara's parents would have helped. I know, sounds weird, but Aelyx comes from a place where parents don't exist. Yes, Aelyx does grow fond of the Sweeney's and vice versa, but considering they eventually put their daughter's life in his hands, I wanted to see him have a light bulb moment as to why parents are so important considering he has none.
The next thing I had problems with, which is a little hard to talk about because I'm getting into spoiler territory, is the way Melissa Landers sets things up for book 2. I'm not going to give any details as to why this might happen, but so far it looks like Aelyx and Cara might be separated for the majority of the second novel which is a clichéd plot device used over and over again in YA literature. Then out of no where, at the tale end of the story, the author throws in this other male character, setting up for a possible love triangle. Really? I'm not hating on love triangles, they can be a good thing. However, I personally feel Alienated could have been wrapped up and perfect as a stand-a-lone novel. It's almost as if some of the events Landers added at the end (including the possible love triangle) were the best she could come up with in order to turn this story into a 2 or 3 book deal. Hell, if she is really bent on expanding this into a series, why does book 2 have to focus on Cara and Aelyx? Why not write about Cara's brother Troy and his experience on L'eihr? Yeah, he's a little older but with a little creativity, there is potential.
My very last complaint, which is not the author's fault, has to do with the cover art. It is gorgeous and eye catching but the male on the cover totally does not look like Aelyx. Aelyx is supposed to have long hair and russet colored skin. Yeah, you see what I mean. Again, I know most authors don't have control over cover art and I am sure Melissa Landers was happy with what she got because it could have been WAY worse. At least it catches your eye and the top half does try to represent Aelyx's home planet with its bland, muted colors.
Overall, Alienated was a solidly written novel which is why I rated it a 4 out of 5 stars. The plot might not have been completely original but she did get creative with the L'eihrs which was fun to read about. I just wish the ending hadn't felt so contrived.
Are you a fan of alien/human romance? Check out these videos below, starting with the book trailer for Alienated by Melissa Landers.
Check out the trailer for the upcoming CW tv series STAR-CROSSED.
Want to watch more alien/human romance? Check out the trailer for ROSWELL, a series that aired for 3 seasons on the WB from 1999-2002. A first of its kind. (This is a real tv show. below is a fanmade video with clips playing to the theme song of the show, Here With Me by Dido)