Sixteen-year-old Gideon Hofstadt prefers an orderly life and an orderly future. In his schoolwork, he excels in the sciences, but struggles with the vagaries of the humanities. It is the same way he struggles with his relationships with his family, friends, and his maybe boyfriend, Owen. Gideon cares about Owen, but as the only other gay student in his school, Gideon fears that Owen really doesn’t care about him, as there aren’t any local alternatives for either of them. When he creates a seismograph and wants to test it, he allows, against his better judgement, his older brother Ishmael to help him with the experiment. Of course, as Gideon fears, Ishmael doesn’t follow his instructions and the resulting explosion, which is supposed to be much, much smaller, creates a crater on his family’s farm.
When the boys are questioned by their parents about what caused the crater, Ishmael claims that its origin is extraterrestrial in nature. Later, when Gideon objects, Ishmael convinces him that this is the perfect opportunity for their differing motivations to align: it provides Ishmael the chance for a marvelous prank, and Gideon the opportunity for a sociological study on how their town responds. Intrigued, Gideon agrees. But as the brothers layer additional lies on to their claims of alien experiences to perpetuate the hoax, something unexpected happens: the town wholeheartedly accepts their tales. Not only that, but their story takes on a life of its own and begins to manifest itself in ways neither Gideon nor Ishmael could have expected. Now, both boys begin to wonder, how will this end?
In this recent novel, Chelsea Sedoti (author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and As You Wish) tells a tale of control lost and, if not exactly regained, at least the protagonist adjusts to living without complete control. The character of Gideon is a fascinating one. He is a bit like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, only younger and not quite as brilliant. Almost nothing comes easily for Gideon, whether it is his knowledge, his grades or his relationships with others, which are a continual struggle. In sharp contrast, the one thing for which Gideon doesn’t have to work is the acceptance of others. His family and friends all seem to accept him as he is. While the relationships portrayed are not simple or easy, no one in the book tries to overtly change Gideon into someone he is not, and that is refreshing. The other characters in the story are interesting, diverse and nicely drawn.
The hoax is just believable enough to propel the plot along. While it is a bit of a stretch to believe that a hoax of this size and magnitude could be perpetrated by two high school students, it is so much fun to join the adventure that readers will overlook any reservations they encounter. Honestly, history has examples of some equally outrageous hoaxes that were fully embraced by the general public, which seems to be part of the point Sedoti is making. And one can only hope that, somewhere, there is a town with a sixty-three foot lava lamp, functioning or not, in their town center.
It Came From the Sky is an entirely earthbound, but out-of-this-world adventure! Check out the this interview with the author, Chelsea Sedoti