A Girl Named Cricket

Young Adult - Sci-Fi
260 Pages
Reviewed on 04/22/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Caitlin Lyle Farley for Readers' Favorite

Cricket is angry. Her parents lied to her, taking her from her home and friends on their distant, dying planet to live on Earth. She has to go to school like a human teenager and do her best to fit into this strange, desert town where the houses aren’t cylindrical and the world is open to the sky. Cricket gets off to a rough start as she and her family give off the wrong impression to everyone they encounter. Cricket’s new human body attracts the unwanted attentions of the local motorcycle gang, who regularly cause havoc in the area, and soon the mayor is breathing down their necks, convinced there’s something odd about the Sminth family, besides their unusual names.

In A Girl Named Cricket, Peter J. Manos writes convincingly from the alien perspective and the confusion caused by language and cultural differences is often hilarious. The world building incorporated through Watson, Crick, and Cricket’s relationship dynamics, remarks on lifestyle differences and, in particular, Cricket’s nostalgia and longing for home paints a realistic feel of the otherworldly. Although she often comes across as petulant and rash, Cricket is easy to relate to and her insightful observations never fail to entertain. Tom is a darling and I loved the way Manos incorporated the trauma he experienced into his personality, without allowing this to overshadow other facets of his personality. A Girl Named Cricket is an entertaining and imaginative sci-fi novel from beginning to end. Manos’ blend of humour and compellingly alien beings is a winner.

Melinda Hills

Cricket Sminth is an alien, and not just from a different country. A Girl Named Cricket by Peter J. Manos follows Cricket and her parents after their space craft lands in the Mojave Desert and they move into the nearby town of Prickly Pear. Just like any teenager who has to move to a new high school, Cricket resents her parents for forcing her to leave her home. Unfortunately, Cricket has to go to school and try to fit in with the other kids. It is very hard, given Cricket’s bad attitude and difficulty communicating in English. While the Sminth family is gradually accepted by some of the townspeople, the Mayor still has his doubts about the Sminths' claims of coming from Hawaii. When trouble with a motorcycle gang brings the Sminths under closer scrutiny, they really have to work to make themselves fit in better. Cricket loses her attitude and begins to be friendlier with the other students, but that leads to the complication of developing feelings for Tom, a boy who also has a chip on his shoulder and a bad attitude about life. When the going really gets tough, will Cricket and her parents be able to face it, or will they be forced to flee their new home?

Peter J. Manos does a wonderful job in telling the story of Cricket Sminth in the first person and from the point of view of someone who has no idea what ‘Earth things’ really are or how they work. A Girl Named Cricket captures not only great sci-fi images and concepts, it also portrays the struggles anyone who is ‘different’ has in society by handling themes such as being displaced, not fitting in, not feeling welcome and trying to find one’s way when life’s situations change. Great story! I love the anthropological approach to the descriptions of Earth and the 'complications' of the language. Good science fiction elements, but also very good teenage psychology, alien or otherwise. A Girl Named Cricket is well written, fast paced and full of emotions, both positive and negative, so that you want to keep reading to find out how it will all work out. This is a great YA sci-fi novel, but also so much more.

Jack Magnus

A Girl Named Cricket is a young adult science fiction/coming of age novel written by Peter J. Manos. Prickly Pear, California was a tiny afterthought of a town, one which its erstwhile mayor had sought to put on the map with the tantalizing images of alien visitors and spaceships, a la Area 51. His lofty visions, so far, had only served to alienate his wife and jeopardize his financial security. When Watson Sminth, his wife, Crick, and daughter, Cricket, arrived in town, dressed in garb that had the townspeople figuring they were actors in some pioneer drama, their biggest challenge was to somehow blend in with the prevailing culture. Their preliminary research into Planet Earth and its denizens had proven to be surprisingly dated, but the last three survivors of the Sassathan civilization were determined to survive -- and fitting in was crucially important. Watson did wonder just how he was going to get his teenage daughter to realize that. She had still not forgiven them their lack of candor about the supposed trip, which turned out to be a full-scale exodus from Sassatha. She was furious at not having had the chance to say goodbye to her friends, and she was very homesick indeed.

Peter J. Manos’s A Girl Named Cricket takes a look at what is required for an alien family to blend in with the residents of a small desert town, and the answers are at times humorous and thought-provoking, and often unexpected. As the Sminths discover, the fear of spies and Russians is much more strongly ingrained in the Prickly Pear residents’ consciousness than fear of visitors from outer space could ever be. I had a grand time reading this decidedly different coming of age story. I loved seeing high school through Cricket’s eyes and got, through her, what it feels like to be truly isolated in a school situation. The fear that the three Sminths share of being found out, of hearing a knock on the door, of ICE coming and taking them away was even more sobering, especially after seeing the young man working in Rosita’s restaurant being handcuffed and taken away. That all-too-relevant fear transcended the science fiction aspect of the story.

Cricket’s coming of age is a thing of beauty and had me cheering her on from just about the first page. Anyone who can casually down Jerusalem crickets to make a point to a bully has immediately earned my respect and admiration. Watching as she holds her own with her peers in totally unfamiliar circumstances is marvelous indeed. Coming of age is probably my favorite sub-genre of young adult fiction, and Cricket’s story ranks as one of the more memorable and enthralling ones I’ve come across. How does an alien family survive in the California desert? Better yet, how can they thrive? A Girl Named Cricket answers those questions wonderfully. This most unusual science fiction/coming of age novel is highly recommended.

Grant Leishman

Cricket and her family escape their dying planet to travel across the cosmos, seeking a new place to live. Eventually they crash land in the Mojave Desert in California and near the tiny desert community of Prickly Pear. During the many millennia of their epic journey through interstellar space, they have been in suspended animation and their bodies have been transformed from their lizard-like originals to human form. Cricket is a typical teenage girl. Angry and rebellious about the subterfuge her parents used to trick her into leaving their home, she is determined not to fit into the small community of Prickly Pear. In A Girl Named Cricket by Peter J Manos, we see the Sminth family slowly worm their way into the hearts and minds of the Prickly Pear residents, despite the almost unanimous opinion that these newcomers are probably Russian spies come to spy on the nearby Andrews Air Force Base. Throw in a renegade biker gang terrorizing the small town and we have the makings of an exciting young adult adventure.

Approaching A Girl Named Cricket from the perspective of the intended young adult audience, this story is a lot of fun and told with considerable humour, irony and a touch of pathos. I particularly enjoyed the characters, who were typical of the inhabitants of any small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Both Tom and Cricket came across as troubled characters who were just seeking their identity in a world neither felt comfortable with, although for very different reasons. This is an entertaining story that also manages to poke fun at some of the current day happenings, which it does with gentle humour. The constant reference to “aliens” as referred specifically to undocumented Mexican workers was a clever construct by the author. I think this book really does hit the mark for its young adult audience. It has romance, action, and that innate fear of authority that can often drive rebelliousness in teenagers. It is an excellent read that I highly recommend.

Kim Anisi

Three aliens land on Earth in A Girl Named Cricket by Peter J. Manos. They are the last of their kind, their bodies more or less adapted to looking like humans, but to fit in - as they soon learn - just looking like a human is not quite enough. Cricket is a teenage girl, and her parents have decided that a small town in the desert, called Prickly Pear, is a good place to start a new life. But from the start, people find the newcomers odd; many think they are Russian spies because of their weird way of speaking. Nobody quite believes the family comes from Hawaii. When Cricket has issues in school, a one-armed boy named Tom is assigned to help her - he's not eager to do so, but has had his own issues, and not much of a choice. All issues pale in comparison to the problem with a local motorbike gang, whose leader likes to abduct local girls, rape them, and get away with it. Soon, his attention falls on the weird new girl.

There are plenty of exciting plot points in A Girl Named Cricket by Peter J. Manos. There are issues with Cricket in school, and her falling in love with an Earthling - something very odd to her. Then there are the suspicious locals who are worried the alien family are spies who are up to no good. When Cricket and her mom both display special skills, it also keeps people wondering. There is some violence, a little bit of romance, some action, some drama, some sci-fi. It's a great, entertaining read that keeps you wondering what will happen and whether Cricket and her family will be able to escape being caught and probed by NASA and the ICE (or whoever investigates aliens on Earth). There were some plot twists that surprised me and then I HAD to read "just one more chapter." I was at the end of the book sooner than expected because it was hard to stop. It's a good choice for fans of alien stories with a twist.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

What type of parents would name their daughter Cricket? It does seem odd. But then, the entire family seems odd. They arrived out of nowhere, with only packs on their backs and a few nuggets of gold, which were almost immediately stolen, making their way to a small desert town in the hopes of living out their lives in anonymity. That was not going to happen. Especially when this alien family, who could barely speak English, were caught doing some pretty bizarre things like climbing walls, eating live crickets and chirping like birds. And, yes, they were alien, from a long-dead planet thousands of light years away. Earth was their only hope. Being human was their only opportunity to blend in. Cricket, though thousands of years old, appeared as a sixteen-year-old girl. Upon settling into the desert town, she was immediately enrolled in the local high school. Teenage girls can be rather mean at the best of times. In Cricket, they found an easy target to bully. And bully they did. But when the tables were turned and things got dangerous, it took Cricket and her unusual family to save the day.

Peter J. Manos’ young adult novel, A Girl Named Cricket, addresses the troubling issues of school bullying in a unique way. An alien family seeking refuge is marked as different and, as such, they’re accused of espionage and worse. The story, sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, develops with a plausible plot, pointing out that differences are sometimes a good thing and should not be issues used as excuses for bully tactics. A simple story at first glance, this novel will appeal to young adult readers and help them look for something good in others, rather than addressing the differences in a negative way. I really enjoyed this novel, told from two points of view: the alien girl, Cricket, and the human boy, Tom, who becomes her guide and mentor.