Earth to Alis

Young Adult - Social Issues
404 Pages
Reviewed on 05/19/2024
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Author Biography

Lex Carlow is a Canadian-born, Scotland-based author of young adult fiction. She holds a degree in psychology from Toronto Metropolitan University and has a passion for mental health and the messiness of the human experience. When she’s not trying to write a book, you'll find her at a concert, exploring beaches with her dog, or buying copious amounts of tea.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Earth to Alis is a work of fiction in the interpersonal drama, LGBTQ+, and social issues genres. It is intended for the young adult reading audience with some strong language as well as scenes of abuse, underage substance use, and suicidal ideation. Penned by author Lex Carlow, the plot follows Alistair Woodson, a loner who isolates himself after a traumatic event. During a graduation trip across Europe, Alis struggles to maintain his distance from classmates, especially the cheerful Craig Miltenberg. As their connections deepen, Alis grapples with past trauma and self-destructive tendencies, risking his newfound relationships. The novel explores themes of trauma, self-acceptance, and the courage to confront mental health struggles.

Author Lex Carlow puts heart and soul into a poignant journey through the complexities of trauma and self-acceptance. Carlow expertly delves into Alis's psyche with strong, confident narrative skills, portraying his struggles with sensitivity and allowing readers to sit on his shoulder as every challenge hits him. The character dynamics, particularly between Alis and Craig, felt authentic and emotionally resonant, with dialogue that was suitably deep for the subject matter, but still accessible and authentically teenage. Carlow's prose effortlessly navigates the delicate balance between darkness and hope, capturing the rawness of Alis's internal turmoil at a pace that felt credible for his emotional maturity. As the story unfolded, I found myself rooting for Alis's journey toward healing and self-discovery. The novel's exploration of queer identity and mental health stigma was also achieved as a slow-burning theme that hits home hard at the end, making for a compelling and thought-provoking read. Overall, Earth to Alis is a captivating and heartfelt story that stays with you long after the final page, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to YA drama fans everywhere.

Asher Syed

Earth to Alis by Lex Carlow revolves around Alistair, a high school student who is juggling anxiety, past trauma, and trying to convince himself that he just doesn't care. During a school trip to Europe, his strained relationships with classmates and teachers are offset by the solace he finds in moments of independence and cultural exploration. When Alistair witnesses Craig in a vulnerable moment, a connection begins to form that challenges Alistair's assumptions about others. Throughout the trip, Alistair's repressed, intense emotional pain grows until it hits boiling point, culminating in a moment that Craig witnesses. For Alistair to heal, he must first address the source of his issues, and it might just take the support of friends he didn't think he wanted to get there.

My heart fell to my knees when Alistair had to use nail polish remover on his face because other people are absolutely horrible, but the fact that Lex Carlow had me so heavily invested in the character is a testament to how well-written Earth to Alis is. This is not a light read, although Carlow keeps a few toes out of the darkness with intelligent wit and some touristy bits, like a good old-fashioned gondola ride that will give readers all the feels. Those bits are also laced with low-key metaphors that Carlow works in organically. “I can see the Rialto Bridge spreading over the Grand Canal like a pair of angel wings.” I think what I like most is that not everyone around Alistair is horrible, and, to be fair, he's not exactly Mr. Congeniality, but when you find your tribe—and a good counselor—the canal ride to being your authentic self is pretty nice. Very highly recommended.

Jamie Michele

Earth to Alis by Lex Carlow stars Alistair “Alis” Woodson, a teen who decides he's better off alone since his former BFF, Jordan, betrayed him. On a pre-graduation tour of Europe, he tries to remain aloof under the publicly assumed guise that he is a cat-killing lone wolf who burns down the homes of his enemies. Unluckily for him, Jordan's boyfriend and part of her new Halfwit friend group are on the trip too. Also on the trip are others he wouldn't normally associate with but is forced to on account of their extroverted personalities, close living quarters, and just all-around niceness, or some combination of all. Friendships form, but Alis has a secret up his sleeve and as he starts to bond with fellow backpacker, Craig, the instinct to revert to pain could go a step too far and end up costing more than what was lost before that fire.

Earth to Alis by Lex Carlow has a fully developed cast with Alis particularly exuding depth and realism, and he is relatable and believable in his discomfort and cynicism. His fear of being judged and his feelings of isolation don't pop up out of nowhere and, as the story progresses, the backstory of his pain starts to reveal itself in a fuller picture. There's a romance plot in the story that I wasn't expecting. To my surprise and delight, a modern Mr. Darcy in the rain scene between two unlikely characters had me doing fist pumps. The most hilarious, mixed bag of a character is Mrs. Lachlan, a teacher who is a cross between the wisdom and compassion of Little Women's Marmee March and the tight organization and somewhat annoying perfectionism of Jenny Joyce in Derry Girls. Overall, this is a story with a funny bone in its darker-themed bone structure and a great read.