Eight Days on Planet Earth was a quick read. While it was a very engaging premise, I did not like the way mental health and ableist language was used. In terms of story, the pages flipped by because knowing it will only be eight days, and seeing the days tick down, the sense of suspense mounts.
To the universe, eight days is a mere blip—but to Matty Jones, it may be just enough time to change his life. On the hot summer day Matty’s dad leaves for good, a strange girl suddenly appears in the empty field next to the Jones farm—the very field in rural Pennsylvania where a spaceship supposedly landed fifty years ago. She is uniquely beautiful, sweet, and smart, and she tells Matty she’s waiting for her spaceship to return to pick her up. Of course she is. Matty has heard all the impossible UFO stories for all of his seventeen years: the conspiracy theories, the wild rumors, the crazy belief in life beyond the stars. As a kid, he searched the skies with his dad and studied the constellations. But all that is behind him now. Dad’s gone and Matty’s stuck. But now there is Priya. The self-proclaimed alien girl. She must be crazy or high, right? As Matty unravels the mystery of Priya, he realizes there is far more to her than he first imagined. And if he can learn to believe in what he can’t see: the universe, aliens…love…then maybe the impossible is possible, after all.
I have mixed feelings about this book. To begin with something I already talked about: how it deals with mental health. On a very basic level, there was ableist language everywhere referring to her ‘crazy’ and it’s even in the Goodreads summary which is why I pulled it. (I got this arc from my dad whose work just brings them in randomly, so he just pulled it for me because the title seemed like something I might like). On a deeper level, for the majority of the book, Matty thinks that Priya is mentally unwell. And so his thoughts, since we are able to see through his eyes, kind of relegate her to this Other status – where he thinks she’s ‘unhinged’. Yet at the same time he’s attracted to her in a way he cannot understand.
For me it was too difficult to imagine the book without this fundamental idea. What would it have been like if the whole situation of Priya’s condition was treated differently? It would have been a much different book, since that central belief is kind of what propels the book. One of the things I did want to talk about, which made the book somewhat better, was this whole idea of belief. Priya believes she’s waiting for a spaceship to pick her up, and she wonders why Matty just cannot believe.
So at the heart of this novel is a conflict about the nature of belief without proof. This is explored in a few different ways like his dad’s UFO hoby, his mom’s love, and his relationship with Priya. At the same time, Matty must navigate his new relationships with his best friend’s sister, his absent dad, and his mother. In many ways, while this title refers to Priya’s time on Earth waiting for her spaceship, this is also about the ways in which Matty’s life is forever changed. There’s more I could talk about, but it is actually impossible to do so, without giving away the pivotal revelation at the end.
Overall do I recommend? This is a tricky question for me and ultimately something you need to gauge for yourself.
Disclaimer: My dad brought back an arc of this for me.
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