Based on the premise that Earth is not the only planet that can sustain life as we know it, the people on Rison, another blue planet, need to evacuate because their world is ready to implode. They seek refuge on Earth and propose a workable arrangement. The Risonians have gills, as well as lungs, and are perfectly capable of living underwater. They could reside on the ocean floor while Earthlings continued on the surface of the planet. As with any public project, opinions abound, and debate is fierce.
Fourteen-year-old Jake Rose, half-human and half alien, now lives on earth with his human grandparents while his mother, who is the Risonian ambassador to Earth, works to arrive at a peaceful compromise for both parties. Jake accidentally discovers that Earth’s elite ELLIS forces are trying to sabotage Mt. Rainier in hopes an eruption can be blamed on the Risonian aliens. Although he doesn’t realize it immediately, Jake himself may hold the key to prevent ELLIS from destroying their own planet. Meanwhile, Risonians have their own darker factions, and in the midst of interplanetary tensions, a mysterious illness affects some creatures and not others.
- Truly science fiction, Darcy Pattison offers her readers an entertaining education on volcanology, astronomy, and anatomy. The idea of a person with both gills and lungs fascinated me.
- Mysteries and suspense abound. Why does Blevins hate the Risonians? Why are seals dying in Puget Sound? Why has Em disappeared? Are there other Risonians already on earth—Sleepers? Will brown matter destroy earth in the same way that it destroyed Rison? Will Jake and his biological father be able to stop the saboteurs?
- The story is complex. Yes, the villains do evil things, but as Jake investigates them, he learns more of their history, which allows the reader to sympathize with Blevins and Hill.
- Pattison offers a romantic interest for Jake, the final ingredient to mix into a great YA story.
- Pattison gives no graphic details, but the moral ambivalence regarding Jake’s mom’s relationships with Blake Rose on earth and Swann Quad-de on Rison bothered me. This detail might go over the heads of some middle grade readers, but others will have questions, so parents, be prepared with an answer! Pattison, who is a Christian, provided me with one answer: not all cultures share Christian beliefs, Rison being one of those cultures.
- If you had both lungs and gills, where would you prefer to live? On land or under the sea?
- Mr. Blevins had to face consequences for his previous, dishonest actions. Was he right to be angry and seek revenge? Why or why not?
- Name one thing you learned about volcanoes through this novel.
- Is there really such a thing as brown matter? Do a little research and prove your answer!