4 out of 4 stars
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Fifteen-year-old Courtney Hoffman is a typical teenager...if being visited by aliens every night can be considered typical. Haunted by the vivid, persistent encounters with otherworldly beings, and by the patchy memories of the last time she saw her mysterious grandfather, Courtney--along with everyone else--believes that she is truly going insane. However, Courtney's new friendship with a girl named Agatha begins to shed light upon her experiences, and makes Courtney realize that she may be closer to reality than anyone realizes...
In his debut novel, The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman, author Brady Stefani delivers a refreshing addition to the YA genre that will entertain readers of all ages. Part science-fiction, and part psychological thriller, this book takes the reader on a fast-paced adventure with plenty of twists and turns.
Mr. Stefani did an excellent job of developing Courtney into a realistic fifteen-year-old girl. Courtney has the same concerns shared by most girls her age, such as dealing with peer pressure, boys, and annoying authority figures. Her story is told entirely in the first person, and her perceptions were very reminiscent of my own at that age. But what makes Courtney unique is her intense internal struggle: is she really seeing aliens, or is the whole thing an elaborate construct of her mind? Courtney's anguish was so realistic that it took me awhile to figure out what was really going on.
In addition to providing an excellent story, this book also gives the reader a glimpse into what those who struggle with mental illness (real or accused) have to go through. The symptoms of any mental illness are difficult enough to bear by themselves, but the fear that comes with being diagnosed, along with the reactions of others, can make it unbearable. In addition to trying to make sense of her bizarre experiences, Courtney must also deal with the insensitivity of her peers and family members, which adds an element of realism to the story.
My favorite aspect of the novel is, oddly enough, something that is missing. An intense, plot-centered love interest is a common trope in YA literature, but it is blessedly absent from this book. I applaud Mr. Stefani for not going down this worn path. There are some serious things happening in Courtney's world, and frankly, nobody has time to get all mushy. This is often the case in YA books, but it rarely stops authors from throwing romance into an already jam-packed plot. I enjoyed the fact that I could focus on the adventure without having to wade through contrived, puppy-love fluff. I'm not against including romance in a story, but I've noticed that YA books tend to be over-saturated with it, sometimes to the detriment of good storytelling.
As for complaints, I can happily say that I have none. This is a well-written and entertaining story that I believe has wide appeal. I give The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman 4 out of 4 stars, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys good fiction.
The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman
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