Plot:4/5 Characters: 5/5 Writing: 5/5 Entertainment: 5/5 World Building: 4/5
“Heart of Earth” is a funny, charming, and down-right dorky tale that blends sci-fi and YA together seamlessly. It’s the kind of book I ate up like candy through middle and high school, before the days of brooding paranormal romances, and it reminded me how much fun YA could be.
Seventeen-year-old Ixdahan Daherek is exiled for selling top-secret information back on his Homeworld, because what’s worse punishment than going through high school on Earth? As if walking on two feet and understand human teenagers isn’t hard enough, Daherek becomes Earth’s first line of defense when the information he sold threatens the planet he now inhibits. Can Daherek adapt to Earth in time to save it with the help of his human friends, or will his crime destroy everything he’s beginning to care about? Since the characters are charming and the writing is exquisite, I highly recommend you read and find out.
Deherek is brilliantly written. He’s bizarre enough to be a convincing extra-terrestrial, but his struggle to become human makes him likeable. He starts out as an octopus-like creature whose culture and technology is millions of years more advanced than ours, so his struggle to adapt to Earth is genuine and provides great character development since he has to humble himself immensely. It’s also hilarious to watch this once proud, hyper-intelligent being trip over himself as he learns how to do everything from walk, to understand colloquialisms, to ask his friends over for lunch.
His human friend, Lena, is also a joy to read. In a world of cookie-cutter post-apocalyptic heroines and girls that “aren’t like other girls” it was nice to encounter a teenaged girl that was just a teenaged girl. On top of the craziness that Deherek brings into her life, she deals with the grief of losing her mother, her dad remarrying, figuring out where to go to college, and her growing crush on Deherek along-side her less-than-stellar self-esteem. Lena deals with her every-day problems with a very realistic sense of frustration as well as admirable strength and courage. Very often it feels like female sci-fi characters are written either as trope-inspired props or static butt-kicking machines trying to prove how “strong” they are, so Lena’s believability and genuine nature was refreshing.
I have to comment on the chemistry between these two, because it’s something so small, but makes a huge impact on the book for the better. The focus of their relationship is friendship rather than romance, which is really refreshing for a YA novel. Their bond develops at a natural pace and what little romance does develops is downplayed for the more important plot points, like saving the world for example. All of it is done in some of the best third person narration I’ve seen in quite some time.
All you writers out there, indie or not, please, please, PLEASE, take a look at this book. Even if you don’t like YA or sci-fi, the use of third-person narration in this book makes it worth it. Laporta knows exactly when to allow the narration to go cold (back up and simply tell the story) and when to make it scalding hot (get into the characters head and explore their thoughts and feelings). Not only that, but the hot narration changes depending on the character. It’s easy to tell Deherek’s thoughts apart from Lena’s and other characters. That’s something I don’t see often, but I wish I did. It was really refreshing to get into multiple character’s heads while still pivoting to different settings depending on what I, as the reader, needed to know. We need more storytellers like Laporta out there, even if his resolutions are a little too goofy.
While I love this book’s light-hearted nature and humor, I felt like those two things were too strong in the book’s resolution. The way the conflict resolved felt like it was written for an audience younger than YA. It reminded me more of “Goosbumps” or a Disney Channel Original Movie rather than something written for teenagers. It didn’t necessarily have to be gritty or dark, but it would have been nice to see something as big as saving the Earth handled with a bit more maturity.
However, given that the resolution is only one part in otherwise expertly written novel with great characters, I would still say that “The Heart of Earth” is worth a read and a few laughs.