Title Love and Other Alien Experiences
Author Kerry Winfrey
Published November 10th, 2015 by The Studio
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Part of a Series? No
Source & Format Received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher for review (Thanks, Paper Lantern Lit!), eBook
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters
My name is Mallory Sullivan.
My therapist says I have an anxiety disorder.
My brother says I’m an “optimistic recluse.”
Everybody else says I’m a freak.
And they kind of have a point, because I haven’t left the house in 67 days and only attend class via the webcam on my laptop. The person I talk to the most other than my mom and brother is the completely obnoxious BeamMeUp, and all we do is argue on New Mexico’s premiere alien message board.
But after yesterday, I have something: a chance. If I can win the homecoming crown by convincing resident hot popular guy and Friday Night Lights spawn Brad Kirkpatrick to go as my date, then maybe #StayAtHome will never appear next to the name @Mallory_Sullivan ever again.
First, I have to leave my room.
I wonder what could have stopped Dad from leaving. A cup of coffee from Mom? Tripping over the rug? One less sarcastic remark from me?
If I could live it over again, could I fix it and avoid all this?
I wish I could be like Lincoln – his reaction was the exact opposite of mine. While I shrunk further into myself, Lincoln seemed to grow two inches overnight. He got more extroverted, he smiled more, he laughed all the time. It’s almost like he was relieved. He just says I need to move on, like Dad has.
But how am I supposed to move on without an answer? Isn’t it normal to be concerned when one of your parents disappears without a trace?
I’m not the weird one here, am I?
A self-proclaimed ‘alien obsessive’ who enjoys spending time with her best friend, Jenni, and perusing We Are Not Alone, an online message board for all things extraterrestrial, Mallory Sullivan is an ordinary girl with her head in the clouds – or cosmos – and her feet firmly planted on the ground. Or, more precisely, within the confines of the home she shares with her mother and younger brother, Lincoln. In fact, Mallory hasn’t left their home in sixty-seven days, her ever-present anxiety having escalated into debilitating agoraphobia after her father’s sudden disappearance from their lives. When it’s announced that the Birdwatcher’s Association, a group in which her father had always been a devoted and passionate member, will be holding their annual excursion in November, however, it seems as though Mallory finally has an incentive powerful enough to inspire her to conquer her fears and confront the man for whom she has so many unanswered questions. The only problem? The five hundred dollar admission fee. With little money and fewer means of earning any when stepping foot outside her front door is a virtual impossibility, it seems as though all hope of attending is lost. That is, until an unexpected nomination for homecoming queen and the accompanying five hundred dollar prize for the winner offers Mallory the opportunity to recapture some semblance of normalcy that she’s so desperate to acquire. As Mallory struggles to juggle spirit points, dress fittings, conspiracy theories, therapy sessions, X-Files reruns, and an out-of-this-world physics assignment, life and her known universe will never be quite the same again.
BeamMeUp: Pizza demands to be eaten with hands. I can’t believe you’re a forker.
AlienHuntress: A forker?! Come on. Pizza is hot, it’s greasy, and it’s way easier to eat with a fork. Also I’m civilized.
AlienHuntress: Did you just call me cute?
BeamMeUp: I called your pizza-eating style cute. Don’t get too full of yourself.
AlienHuntress: What do you eat your pizza with, your massive ego?
BeamMeUp: Sounds like something a forker would say.
I don’t participate in blog tours very often. In fact, over the course of my entire blogging career, you could likely count those I have taken part in on two hands. When I was approached by Paper Lantern Lit and invited to participate in the blog tour for debut author Kerry Winfrey’s Love and Other Alien Experiences, however, I didn’t need to think twice. Putting aside the fact that I’ve long been an ardent fan of Kerry’s current project, A Year Of Romantic Comedies – Seriously, it’s absurdly cute. You should read it. Go on. I’ll wait here. – as a sufferer of anxiety, my own personal connection to Mallory’s story ensured that Winfrey’s debut was one book I couldn’t bear to miss. Written with the same effervescent wit, vivacity and humour that I have now come to recognize as Winfrey’s signature style, Love and Other Alien Experiences is a sweet, gentle exploration of one girl’s journey of self discovery and first love which is sure to appeal to the hopeful romantic inside us all. If you’ve ever dreamt of a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils, questioned whether men and women can ever truly be friends, or have sworn that the truth is out there, Love and Other Alien Experiences might be the book for you.
Dana Scully would never sit around and wait for a guy to send her a message. That’s because she’s way too busy performing autopsies or trying to convince Mulder that the Loch Ness Monster isn’t real, but still, she’s a woman of action. And I can be, too.
When I was a child, I was what one might call fretful. I worried. About everything. While other kids were riding their bikes and scraping their knees, I was eating my peanut butter toast with a knife and fork and checking to make sure that the doors were locked and the stove was off. Again, and again, and again. I wasn’t able to shed these obsessive thoughts like my baby teeth and untameable curls. And though I’m fortunate enough to be able to manage my anxiety through routine and medication, and have not suffered from agoraphobia firsthand, aspects of Mallory’s story are not dissimilar to my own. I know what it’s like to allow my anxiety to overwhelm me. To feel frustrated and trapped and embarrassed by feelings largely outside my control. To long for a less complicated version of ‘normal’. While one needn’t discover a new best friend or potential lover in a story in order for it to resonate or be deemed ‘valuable’, there’s no doubt that a personal connection with a character can be a transformative experience. In this case, seeing some variation of my own story on the page was as empowering as it as liberating. As she’s eventually told by her devil’s-advocate-turned-friend, BeamMeUp, Mallory is a force to be reckoned with. Smart, sarcastic, brave, and resilient, Mallory recognizes her failings and actively works to confront them head-on. This journey can be messy and ugly and even unkind, but it is never untrue. With a deft hand and thoughtful sensitivity, Winfrey’s exploration of Mallory’s anxiety is authentic and harrowing while also remaining hopeful and optimistic. Best of all, her growth and transformation are entirely self-motivated. While there is a romance-inspired secondary storyline, this is by no means presented as an answer to Mallory’s problems. A number of people contribute to Mallory’s recovery in a positive manner – her mother, her brother, her therapist, and her best friend – but ultimately her strength and healing come from within.
“Not fair,” Jake protests. “You get the star player and I get Mallory? No offense.”
“Plenty of offense!” I yell back.
“Yeah, offense is super important!” Brad adds, not even ironically.
Of equal importance are these secondary characters who buoy Mallory’s spirits and traverse their own equally compelling adventures over the course of the novel. Most prominent of these is Lincoln, Mallory’s younger brother, who recently came out and is embracing his sexuality and embarking on his first serious homosexual relationship. Though the two are more likely to exchange sarcasm than sincerity, the reader is left with absolutely no doubt as to their depth of feeling and the lengths to which they will go to help one another. Equally engaging is Mallory’s closest friend, Jenni, an Indian beauty blogger who is always ready to lend a helping hand, whether it be in achieving the perfect winged eyeliner or earning enough spirit points to win the homecoming crown. Jenni is ineffably charming and undeniably quotable (“If you wear your look with confidence, people will accept it, no matter what. Just pretend you’re Beyoncé at the Grammy’s, or Beyoncé at the Met Ball or…actually, just pretend you’re Beyoncé. It’s a solid life philosophy.”) Each of Winfrey’s characters, both primary and periphery, shine more brightly than the last.
Everything in the universe – that’s everything, no matter how small – exerts a gravitational force on everything else. A pencil exhibits a force on the sun. A quarter on Jupiter. A scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream on a scoop of chocolate ice cream. And that means you exert force on the universe, too. You, AlienHuntress, are a force to be reckoned with. Don’t count yourself out before you even start the game.
Perfect for fans of Paula Stokes and Lauren Morrill, Love and Other Alien Experiences is a charming, hopeful, heartening contemporary romance that has a little something for every reader. Whether you’re interested in a little fun flirtation or a sincere reflection on mental illness, this debut has it all in a darling story that can easily be devoured in a single afternoon. A novel that focuses not on the destination but the journey, Love and Other Alien Experiences celebrates the infinitesimal triumphs and failures along the way, and reminds us that showing up is often half the battle. With a dash of humour, a drop of affection, a pinch of mystery and a generous helping of heart, Kerry Winfrey’s winning recipe for romance will quickly have readers exclaiming “I’ll have what she’s having!”
Still not sure this is the right book for you? Why not listen to what some other bloggers had to say about it?
● Jessica @ Read My Breath Away wrote “It’s an enjoyable, empowering, and ultimately triumphant tale of a young woman facing a difficult struggle and learning that her life doesn’t have to end where her mental illness begins.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)
● Rachel @ Fiktshun wrote “Love and Other Alien Experiences is a quick, enchanting, and feel-good read that can easily be devoured in one sitting. It is heartwarming and uplifting, with both a character and a love story you can’t help but want to root for.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)
● Alexandra @ Sleeps On Tables wrote “It has a romance that will make you swoon and an amazing main character who undergoes a transformation that is very real and admirable. “ (Read the rest of the review Here!)