Book Review: Starseed by Liz Gruder

For a sci-fi, alien-loving dork like me, this book was right up my alley. I couldn’t wait to read it, and it didn’t disappoint. The book follows high schooler Kaila. For most of her life, Kaila was sheltered—home schooled and protected, even forced to wear a special hat or a black plastic head wrap under a wig so that “they” wouldn’t bother her. She’s always known something was strange about her. For instance, she can communicate with her pets using nonverbal communication like eye contact—almost as if she can tell what they are thinking. But despite her questions, her mother has never told her the truth—like why her eyes are so large, why she has only four fingers, why she is so sheltered, or who her real father is.

As the story begins, she insists on going to high school, where she learns just how cruel humans can be. But she also meets a group of students who, according to the principal, were part of a nearby cult and were recently rescued and being integrated into society. These kids are aptly nicknamed “aliens” and wear silver suits and have large eyes and other weird features—like four fingers.

Kaila knows something is wrong almost immediately, and her two new friends start to catch on, too. It becomes apparent that the “aliens” are—well, aliens! Like Kaila, they are half-alien/half-human, but they seem to have an “us versus them” mentality, and they want to know where Kaila’s loyalties lie. They accept Kaila to varying degrees, but Jordyn takes a special liking to her, and they soon become romantically involved. Kaila discovers that the plastic head wrap her mother forced her to wear actually blocks her psychic powers. The aliens at school, with the help of a teacher, teach Kaila about her abilities. She learns to bend time and space and change the memories and experiences of full-blooded humans. She feels especially torn about this ability, and the waters are muddied. Here is where I will stop giving things away.

I will say, however, that I enjoyed the combination of a fun plot, interesting characters and abilities, and philosophical musing. For instance, the aliens remind Kaila to still her mind and live in the present, rather than being distracted and hurt by thoughts of the past or the future. But at the same time, they encourage her to remain distanced from her emotions. There’s also an examination of faith versus science. Which one will lead Kaila to understand the truth? This book was well-written and compelled me to turn the pages from the very beginning. It’s a great read for a high-school student, but adults like me will enjoy it, too. I’ll definitely be following this author!

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