Friday, August 17, 2012

Tom Upton - Just Plain Weird

Just Plain Weird

By Tom Upton

Kindle Edition Available 

Product Description (from Amazon)

Travis MacDuff has always led an uneventful life. His greatest concern was making the high school football, until an odd girl moves in next store, a girl whose secrets threaten not only his existence but the existence of everyone on the planet.

About the Author (from Amazon)

Tom Upton was born in Chicago. He attended Columbia College, where he studied writing and film.
     Upton has written Just Plain Weird, a young adult novel, Scarecrows, a very dark tale of horror, and Mourning Doves, a short story collection.
     His other interests including animal rights and senior and disabled rights.
     He is writing the Freaky Jules e-book series, a young adult paranormal series of novellas. Freaky Jules #1 (Vanished) and Freaky Jules#2 (Pants on Fire) have already been published. Freaky Jules#3 (Hellhounds) will be available shortly.
     He now lives in the rural Midwest, with his wife and two teenaged daughters.

O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Kendra

I read this book because I wanted to know what the moon and earth had to do with the girl next door’s secret. It took me a while to get in to. I read a bit, then put it down to read something else … then picked it back up to read it some more …

Neither the romance nor sci-fi are my favorite genres, though I read both. Really, the only reason I read this was to find out what the girl’s secret was. When the secret was revealed, I only kept reading to see where it would take the story. There were many times I almost put the book down, and a few times that I actually did so and went and read another book for a while.

The bulk of the story takes place over less than a week, with several weeks squeezed into a few paragraphs between the third and fourth days, and an epilog that covers several months, so it’s a pretty action-packed story.

There were pretty much only six characters in this book: Travis, Eliza (the girl), his mom, Doc (her dad), Raffles (his genius best friend) and the space ship. There was also the president, but that was only over the radio. The book is told in first person from Travis’s point of view … understandable, since the author is a man. Eliza is the second-most important character, being the driving force of the romance portion of the book. She’s also the one who drives the car all over town and over the cliff…

Yeah … she’s a little … well, as the title puts it, just plain weird.

The other characters were mostly background characters and appeared only to move the plot.

The story begins with Travis spying on his new neighbors from his tree house. Thing is, he hasn’t seen anything going on over there since they moved in – no one going in or out, no lights in the windows – nothing. His friend Raffles discovers him spying and decides that Travis is … well, he decides that Travis needs to stop spying and just go over next door and introduce himself. They do so, and meet the dad, who invites them in. While inside, they meet Eliza, and the only intelligent thing Travis can say in the presence of pretty girl is: “She needs a tan.”

As they head back to Travis’s house, Raffles makes a startling announcement. The house was somehow bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. He thinks that it is because they weren’t actually in the house, but instead far away, and that Eliza and her father are aliens.

The next day, Eliza comes outside for the first time to do yard work – her dad took the tan comment seriously, you see. She complains to Travis, and he offers to help her. By the time they’re done, they feel as though they’ve known each other for a long time, and she offers him a ride in her dad’s Lexus. They’re both fifteen, by the way …

During this ride, she drives them off of a cliff and into a lake. Despite not knowing how to swim, Travis manages to get out, and rescue the unconscious Eliza. Next thing he knows, he’s at Eliza’s house again, and there is no sign of the injury he sustained in the fall.

After that, the secret of how their house is larger inside than outside is revealed, and it isn’t too far off from Raffles’ guess. Travis ends up being the pilot of an alien spaceship, and able to communicate with it telepathically.

Eliza’s mother, it revealed, is not dead. Instead, she is stuck in the future, due to an experiment that Eliza’s dad had done when the alien spaceship could travel temporally.

They make an effort to undo this … but end up completely altering the earth’s history … and killing all of earth’s inhabitants … and breaking the moon, which happens to be my favorite part of the book.

There were some editing issues … or, rather, quite a few. One of the amazon reviewers remarked that it looked like it was written in Notepad. I don’t think it was that bad, but it definitely needs some editing. The plot, however, was pretty much sound. The only thing that confused me there is that when Travis’s much older author brother is first mentioned, I got the impression that he had already published a book, but later, during the epilog, he publishes his first novel. It’s not important to the plot, however, and not a huge issue.

I could probably tear this book apart over the romance. It was pretty strong. However, since I had known it would be there before I started reading, it didn’t bother me as much as if it had taken me completely by surprise. There were times when it made me want to put the book down, but then it would return to the “Save the world from the disaster we caused” part of the plot, and I would be fine again. I did skim over the worst of it.

I did enjoy this book, for the most part, however. There were plenty of hilarious stuff … and the concept was quite intriguing. It’s not a book that I would read a second time, but I don’t consider the time I took reading the book as completely wasted either.

Note: While many of the reviews on Amazon say that this is fine for children as young as nine, I disagree. There are some pretty scary scenes, as well as some heated scenes that, though they weren’t very descriptive, still almost made me put the book down.

Genre/Theme: sci-fi, romance, time travel, space travel, paradox

Reading Level:  Mature TEEN - high school to college
Profanity: LOW - few mildly offensive words. I don’t remember if there were any for certain, but I think there were some lighter words.
Sexuality: MILD  to  OBVIOUS Travis and Eliza go physical fast – her driving it, as he’s actually holding back. They make love in the car. Later they take a shower together. Descriptions are not very in depth, though, mostly limited to the fact that it hurt.
Other:  There are some bug-like aliens (about seven feet long) that try to get Travis and Eliza. Travis manages to shoot it with a gun.

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