I was sent a copy of Destination Earth by Ali Sparkes, for review by Amazon Vine in exchange for my unbiased opinion.
I had never read any Ali Sparkes before now, despite the fact that she is a prolific author and has won many awards, including The Blue Peter Book of the Year for her book Frozen in Time. Her work often features elements of science fiction, which is not my favourite genre, so given the choice I tend to blip over her offerings for other novels and novelists.
She was recently brought to my attention, after having been given the go ahead to order some new books for our school library I was canvassing the children’s opinion as to what we should get. One child was a huge fan of Sparkes’ and suggested we should get some of her work. When the opportunity came up to review this, I jumped at the chance so that I could gauge whether she would be suitable.
This book, Destination Earth is a standalone adventure. I understand Sparkes usual format is to create a series of novels.
Here we meet Lucy, an alien, forced to flee from her planet by the invasion of a species called the Koth. Lucy has been travelling to earth for ten years to see if she can make a new home on a planet where the environment and the inhabitants are not so far away from her own.
Lucy has been watching earth television and using the onboard computers on her ship to prepare herself for her arrival on earth and she is pretty confident that she has everything under control. That is until she steps off of her ship, onto the Isle of Wight, and meets two teenage children, brother and sister, Jay and Emma.
She realises that it might not be so simple to blend in after all, and when she realises that a Koth has hitched a lift on the outside of her ship and is about to invade earth the way it has her home, she knows that she will have to reveal who she is if she is going to save the planet.
This is an interesting story, and I was quite charmed by it. The story of the Koth only really comes into its own in the last third of the book, and to my mind is rather hurried and seems tacked on in places. The real story is about Lucy, her oddness, her fascination with earth and her assimilation. It is actually a coming of age novel with elements of science fiction. I enjoyed the coming of age elements, the science fiction bits less so, although I expect child readers might go the opposite way and find the long lead up to the adventure parts of the book more off putting than I did.
There is a whole sub plot which involves Lucy’s love for the Eighties band Level 42 which I found rather strange, and somewhat unnecessary. It was odder than the bits with the alien hitch hiking Koth, and didn’t really work for me at all, although I expect child readers will take it in their stride.
It is suitable for boy and girl readers aged 7-12, with a nice mix of characters, some interesting plot arcs and a very readable story. I will definitely pick up some of her earlier series to try now that I know what kind of thing to expect. Her work would be a great addition to any school library, particularly for older, more confident readers.