Thursday, June 05, 2008
Funny And A Real Story, Too
Spunky eleven-year-old characters who save the world can be really annoying, particularly when they have cutie bizarre names like Gratuity. But Gratuity Tucci of The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex transcends her stereotype. She really is tough, funny, and engaging. Even the alien she runs into on her way to the human compound down in Florida can't get enough of her.
Smekday is both funny and scary, a marvelous combination in my humble opinion. Plus it doesn't skimp on a real story in order to crack jokes.
Gratuity is growing up with a somewhat dotty single mom, which explains why she is a little more capable than the average eleven-year-old. Mom is kidnapped by aliens just before they take over the Earth. All Americans are going to be rounded up and sent to Florida because the Boov overlords are colonizing the planet. Instead of heading out by way of Boov transportation, Gratuity decides to drive herself. Her poor driving skills are compensated for by the fact that no one else is on the road because civilization has fallen. (Plus, she's right when she says it should be a relatively easy trip--from Pennsylvania, which is where she's starting, I believe you're on the same highway all the way to Florida.)
Young Gratuity runs into a Boov on the lam from his own people. (We find out why--important plot point.) From there on, we've got a highly entertaining road story. It's sort of like The Defiant Ones without the chain and with plenty of sly and not so sly humor.
The Boov takeover of Earth is definitely supposed to be compared to the European takeover of the New World. The line between an interesting analogy and a pretentious, heavy-handed allegory is very fine, and in a few places Rex teeters along it. But he always manages to save himself, in large part because of Gratuity and J.Lo, two marvelous characters.