Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Three Ways to Snog an Alien: book review

Three Ways to Snog an Alien by Graham Joyce. Faber (2008) £6.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

A terrible cover. Looks like chic lit for teenage girls. But get past that and you’ll find a wonderful exploration of teenagers in love. At first I was reminded of the Matheson story ‘The Trouble with Julie’; but Joyce has very much his own voice and his own compelling story to relate.

Doogie falls for the new girl Angelica. Naturally, for kids of his age, there’re the usual taunts about Doogie loving Angelica. Nevertheless, they go on a date – for an ice cream in a local café. But he sees something disturbing, something that convinces him that Angelica is an alien. And now he’s on the look out for all things weird. The girl’s parents’ strange behaviour only further confirm his suspicions.

At home, Doogie does what we all would nowadays. He Googles the Web. He soon encounters a group of on-line conspiracy theorists who concur with him. Doogie is sucked into an investigation, armed with pointers to prove Angelica’s alien nature. He is warned that the investigation could prove highly dangerous.

But at the same time, Doogie is using the Web to search out dating tips, on how to handle women. The conflicts these two threads create are very amusing. Made me giggle out loud a few times.

If I didn’t know better, I’d suggest that Graham Joyce was writing from experience (well, to all teenage boys, girls are unfathomable, anyway). But – big but – Joyce adds that element of ambiguity. Doogie’s question is fully answered. Or is it? Are Angelica and her parents aliens? Or are they just strange? I’m not telling here.

I am a great fan of Joyce’s writing. He writes crisply and engagingly, with no superfluous words. He has a knack of creating very real people. They have normal lives, in normal towns and cities. And then he shifts reality ever so slightly, using that conflict to create perfect fiction.

Joyce’s previous young adult titles published by Faber are TWOC and Do the Creepy Thing. Read them all.

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