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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
The Interlopers by Paula Welch is an intriguing, absorbing sci-fi drama for preteens. This book is a standout for young readers who like science fiction and the thought of communicating with aliens and life in outer space. This drama begins with seven-year-old Charlie witnessing a meteor shower in New South Wales, Australia. A boy who had always dreamed of planets and stars, he now had a front-row seat to a spectacle that would influence the rest of his life. Flash forward 25 earth years later to a war erupting in a faraway galaxy, which causes a spacecraft from early civilization to run for safety. A powerful spaceship, Zephyrus, is helmed by Lathaniel. He tries to find a safe place to shelter until the war is over, carrying young war refugees on board. They are low on supplies, and things look dire, but then they find a planet called Earth. Charlie is an adult astronomer now, still in love with space, and discovers Lathaniel's ship. Charlie's discovery brings about danger and mistrust, and the consequences could wreak havoc.
This humans-meet-aliens story has everything readers look for: engaging characters, a suspenseful plot, and high stakes. Charlie is an awesome character, both as a child, then as an adult. The plot is simple yet profound, conveying ideas that ring true and honest with readers. Although this book is aimed at preteens, adults could easily enjoy it too, especially sci-fi fans. I like that Welch doesn't talk down to her audience, and she crafts her story with sincerity, realism, and believability. The pace is steady, with nail-biting events and situations. I also like that the author features both young and old characters and addresses the reality of child war refugees. There is a high level of maturity that you don't normally see in a book for preteens, such as talking about grief among the refugees, having low levels of food and supplies. They feel fear and uncertainty, but thanks to COVID-19, the young in today's societies have experienced it. Even though this is a sci-fi book, young readers will recognize themselves and their emotions throughout and will connect with it. If you're looking for a realistic sci-fi novel about alien and human relations, space, conflict, and a great what-if scenario that will have you racing through the pages, be sure to put The Interlopers by Paula Welch at the top of your reading list.