Imagine being adopted as a baby by an alien and taken to live on another planet. This is what happens to Terra. Found abandoned in the car her parents have fled in terror on seeing a Lbbp’s space craft, she is taken back to Fnrr where she grows up. Now she is facing school for the first time. How will she cope as the alien there? Will she fit in? For her Fnrr is home, Rrth a different world. However, now both are threatened as war looms.
This is not a book that will appeal to everyone and many will find the science fiction, in particular the absence of vowels in the language of Fnrr, a barrier. However, those who manage to set aside disbelief will discover a warm hearted story about a young girl growing up in ‘alien’ surroundings, (literally) facing questions of difference, displacement, prejudice, tolerance and intolerance, as well as relationships. In this, as in the happy ending, there is, perhaps, more than a whiff of Pollyanna. Nor can it claim great originality, conforming as it does to the standard juxtaposition – or opposition – between the humans with imagination and scientific aliens, favoured by the genre. It is the wry, ironic humour reminiscent of Adams, Pratchett and Sue Townsend that prevents it becoming too mechanical or cloying by providing necessary tartness. Young readers – and old – will enjoy recognising types in the Fnrrn characters and will sympathise, indeed empathise, with Terra as she represents humankind in a very strange place. Surprisingly the absence of vowels in the speech of Fnrr will not present too much of a problem, becoming assimilated very quickly as the reader steps into Terra’s world. Short chapters and a brisk style including plenty of dialogue, ensures that the plot moves along with enough pace to keep the pages turning to a dramatic climax.
Is it a children’s book? This question could be endlessly debated; after all Terra is 11 years old. In the end, perhaps, the conclusion should be that it is a book for whoever discovers it and it can be recommended to readers KS3 and up. An enjoyable debut novel.