Title: Stuck on Earth
Author: David Klass
ISBN: 9780374399511
Pages: 227 pages
Publisher/Date: Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, c2010.

“Please don’t eat me,” he whispers. “I have a rash and it’s highly contagious, so if you eat me you’ll catch it and die.”
“I have no plans to ingest you,” I tell him. I try to recall some other typical human fears about extraterrestrials and attempt to set his mind at ease. “Nor am I interested in dissecting you to learn about human anatomy. And here’s some more good news, Tom–I also do not intend to try to impregnate you.”
My reassurances do not have the intended soothing effect. His blood pressure surges and he begins hyperventilating. He moistens his lips with his tongue again and whispers, “Take my sister.”
Human though processes are notoriously difficult to follow. “Take her for what?” I ask.
“For whatever,” he says. “She’s fatter than I am so she’s probably more delicious to eat. And she’s a girl so she can have your babies. And she gets A’s in school so if you want to dissect a human brain, hers would be much better than mine. That’s her window, right there. She’s alone, practicing her cello. Take her, and put me back. I swear I won’t tell anyone.” (7)

Although fourteen-year-old Tom Filber tries valiantly to convince the alien that is taking over his brain to take his sister instead, Ketchvar is insistent that they need a fourteen-year-old. Ketchvar’s mission is to determine the worth of the human race. If deemed unworthy, then the humans will be annihilated and the planet’s resources will be given to the Lugonians, whose planet is about to be destroyed. Ketchvar had no way of knowing that this randomly chosen teenage boy is already bullied constantly and seen as weird, alien, and an outsider by his classmates. The only person who is sort of kind to Tom is his next door neighbor, and even she thinks he’s weird. Ketchvar is convinced he has either really bad luck in choosing Tom, the humans have no redeeming qualities amongst their violent and angst ridden society,… or maybe he’s mistaken about his own reasons for inhabiting Tom’s brains.

This book was not what I expected. If I remember correctly, I first heard about this book at a conference where the gentleman presenting read the quoted section to get us laughing. However, the book isn’t consistently written in that humorous tone. Ketchvar’s conversations become more and more humanized in tone, which as readers discover the undisclosed secondary plot makes sense in a way. I thought this secondary plot, which is the main thing that sticks out in my brain and is probably intentionally left unresolved, detracted from the humor of an alien blindly navigating human teenage life. On the other hand, this secondary plot is not one that I have ever seen in a children’s book, and for this reason alone makes it a very unique book, but also a little unsettling and a bit of a mind-bender.

That being said, our copy of this book has obviously either been well-loved or heavily abused, as the spine is coming undone already, and it’s less than a year old. I’m not sure what the reaction of kids who have read it have been towards that secondary plot element. There was still some great humor in several of the scenes, and I think the things that Ketchvar/Tom experience are accurately portrayed as the bullying escalates and the bullies take their cues from his behavior, but…

Oh, if only I could say more without spoiling anything! Does anyone else feel the same way, that the inclusion of the secondary plot doesn’t jive with the rest of the humorous, coming-to-age, oblivious boy angle? Or am I just obsessing over that element?