Michael is home for the school holidays, and bored. His best friend and next-door neighbour Elvis lends him a metal detector to scan the backyard with. The mystery object that Michael finds sets in stream a chain of events that is both worrying and funny … because Michael inadvertently allowed an alien to possess his grandmother’s body. The alien, a location scout from a galaxy far, far way wastes no time in trying to communicate with its home planet to discuss Earth’s invasion potential. Some clever sleuthing and a few near misses mean that Michael and Elvis uncover the aliens’ plan to invade. But who will believe them, let alone know how to help?
This novel, which publishers Scholastic promote as being for 9-11 year olds (I’d give it a year extra in either direction depending on the child, especially if it’s a shared bed time story with 8-year-olds), is Suzanne Main’s first. You wouldn’t know it. The pacing is excellent, and the story moves along at a cracking speed, without compromising on characterisation or story. The humour is inter-generational; I can definitely picture a pre-teen chuckling away as Michael and Elvis try to solve the problem of Michael’s alienated grandma; and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I genuinely enjoyed reading a book specifically written for an audience 30 years my junior.
One of things I most liked about the story was that Main encourages the reader to look again. Is Michael really a bad influence, or the victim of circumstance? Is Elvis truly something of a cowardly, bumbling geek, or is he a forward thinking, practical problem-solver. And most importantly, is the local eccentric, “Mad Bill” someone to write off without a second glance because he smells bad, or is he the key to solving the riddle?
Main deservedly won the 2014 Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a previously unpublished author. I think she’s about to win a number of young fans who will appreciate a clever idea well executed, full of fun and adventure, with relatable characters and an unexpected twist at the end. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Rachel Moore
How I Alienated My Grandma
by Suzanne Main
Published by Scholastic NZ