Nowhere on Earth

by Nick Lake

“Something was floating in the sky. Something is not a specific word. But it was not a specific thing. It seemed irreducible to a single, simple shape. Its edges and corners were not where edges and corners should be. It was large, and dark, and broadly circular. But it was hard to tell exactly how big it was because it didn’t seem to reflect and absorb light in an ordinary way; it was as if there were parts of it you couldn’t see, and Emily didn’t know how that was possible.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A-

I was hooked by the survival story that unfolds almost immediately. The twist with Aidan was a bit unexpected – I never thought that he would be an alien and certainly didn’t expect events to unfold as they did. Emily is a likeable protagonist and her survival skills are top notch. All of the things that she gleaned from family camping trips are put to good use – albeit in a slightly unrealistic manner – and her level-headedness makes her easy to root for.

The locker room incident unfolded slowly, and while it seemed a bit out of place, by the time the whole story came out, I understood Emily’s strength and self-respect, and respected her all the more for it. There were moments when she had typical teen tantrums, but there was a resolve to help Aidan that was beyond average and resulted in a heartwarming story. The book emphasizes how we rarely understand each other because we only see what we want to see in those around us. While that message was dominant, there were moments when I was distracted by some of the less realistic aspects of the plot. Overall, though, this is a unique YA novel that crosses genres to hook diverse readers.

Movie Rating: PG

Nowhere on Earth has a bit of swearing and details scenes with government agents tracking Emily, Aidan, and Bob (the pilot of the crashed plane) through the mountains, but by and large, there is little that might cause readers to blush. There is a repeated gentle reference to something that happened to Emily that made her feel uncomfortable with one of the football players, but when it was revealed, I found it to pale in comparison to what I imagined had happened to her (and was grateful for it). There is mention of teen smoking and a general angstiness as Emily tries to forge her path in Alaska, but all said, there is little to worry about with selecting this as a class read.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Yes

This book is hard to classify, so it might be hard for kids to find it, but I think that this book will be one that is in my recommend category. The cover art is lovely and Emily is a strong, determined character. I absolutely feel that students will be frustrated by some of the alien elements that remain vague and unexplained, and other students will feel that Emily’s survival skills are unrealistic and problematic. Both will be correct, but that should not keep students from reading and enjoying this book. It is thoughtfully crafted and refreshingly original. All in all, it is a great choice for any YA collection.

Summary:

A plane crash. A burned down locker room. An alien. All on an Alaskan mountain. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but this is the captivating start of Nowhere on Earth by Nick Lake a book that blends adventure, science fiction, and realistic fiction.

Emily was uprooted from her life as a dancer in Minnesota so that her parents could build their dream life in Alaska. Emily hates everything about it – the small high school, the aggressive football players, and the fact that she has to do cheerleading as there is no dance studio in town. After being pushed just a bit too far, Emily accidentally burns down a locker room at school and is suspended. On her way home, feeling that her situation cannot get any worse, she meets Aidan – an alien taking the form of a little boy – who crashed his spaceship and needs to find a way back to his family. Propelled by her own desire to leave the one-coffee-stand town that she she now calls home, Emily becomes determined to get Aidan to Anchorage so that he can communicate with his home planet and (hopefully) be rescued. What she does not expect – and cannot predict – is that the plane she hides on will crash in an Alaskan mountain, she will be chased by government agents with guns, and she will have to fight against nature in order to get Aidan home. This fast-paced book has layers of compassion, suspense, and adventure, and is a book like none other.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. What does Aidan run back and retrieve from the ruins of the plane? Why is this so special to him?
  2. How does Aidan reveal himself to Bob?
  3. What does Emily learn about Bob’s past when at the cabin? How does Aidan help him cope with this?
  4. Why did Emily burn down the locker room? Describe the interaction at the end of the book between Emily and the student from the locker room scene; what do you predict happens as a result of this?
  5. Emily’s parents don’t remember Aidan, but she does. Who is she able to talk to about this, but why might she choose not to?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall
  • When You Look Up by Decur
  • Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter
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