First Lines: The first time I ever say Smitty Tibbs, I was having one of the worst days of my life. Truth–up until then, I’d been a happy person–happy, cheerful, confident, easy going, reasonably popular even.
Fact: I first saw this book in a Barnes and Noble about 7 years ago. Didn’t know a lick about it, and still didn’t when I put this on hold at the library a few weeks ago. Fact: I legitimately thought this was about aliens. (It’s not.)
Moving cross country just after her closest brother leaves for college is Ginny’s worst nightmare. Out of her element and feeling lost in her own life, Ginny struggles to feel normal again as she starts her senior year. That is, until she spots Smitty Tibbs in her English class. He never speaks to anyone and never makes eye contact. Everyone calls him The Alien. But to Ginny, he’s a mystery she wants to understand. She’s convinced there’s more to him than his exterior. But breaking through his defenses could cause more harm than good…
Like I mentioned above, I legitimately thought this was going to be about aliens. So when I started reading this and it didn’t go that way, I was taken a little by surprise. But it was a good surprise.
The subject matter is actually really dark and a bit gritty. I wasn’t expecting that. But it was so real. And because it was first published in 1995, it just reads differently than the YA books I’m used to. There’s not a whole lot of fluff just to give you a happy ending. It was actually really refreshing.
The characters were interesting, particularly Ginny because we get to see everything through her eyes. She starts off the book hurting because of all the changes in her life, but it was cool to see her make friends with Hally and Caulder and adapt to her new environment. And the way she interacts with Smitty was truly character gold. And, of course, the mysterious Smitty is definitely fun to read about. And why not? He’s a complete mystery and doesn’t react at all like a normal person. It’s actually sad.
I saw a couple of reviews that warn that the book moves slow, but I don’t agree with that. There’s a lot of character development, sure. There’s a lot of set up about Ginny’s family that takes away from the “action” of unraveling Smitty’s mystery. But it really helped to get into Ginny’s emotions and understand why she’s so interested in Smitty without being weird.
On a final note, there was a really awesome quote in this book that I just have to share. It’s where the book gets its title, but it’s just generally really good advice:
In a desperate bid for sanity, I told myself, This is the first day of school for all these people, everybody’s got to be a little off balance. I could hear Paul telling me, “Never, never make the mistake of thinking you’re the only alien on the planet.”
See? Isn’t that just perfect?