Cover of I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi. Two teen boys and a teen girl sit on a radio tower

About the Book

Title: I Hope You Get This Message
Published: 2019

Cover Story: ‘Best of’ DVD
Drinking Buddy: Message In a Bottle
MPAA Rating: R: Intense violence, sexuality, strong language
Talky Talk: Don’t Shoot the Messenger
Bonus Factors: Roswell, New Mexico; End of the World
Bromance Status: Friends to the End

Cover Story: ‘Best of’ DVD

This cover gives the impression of being badly photoshopped, with the three main characters hanging out on top of a radio tower. It looks like something off the cover of a Kids in the Hall compilation.

The Deal:

NASA has intercepted a message from a planet that calls itself ‘Alma.’ If they are interpreting it correctly, the aliens are saying that the earthlings have proven to be a violent and wasteful species, and a meeting is now underway to decide if we should all be painlessly exterminated. They’ll be in touch in a week.

Obviously, this causes mass panic and chaos. The end of all things! Armageddon! Not having to go in to work! As society crumbles, three teens try to make sense of the time they have left. Meanwhile, we’re allowed glimpses of the transcript of the alien committee meeting, as they debate our fate.

Drinking Buddy: Message In a Bottle

Two pints of beer cheersing

We have three point of view characters. There’s Cate Collins, whose mother has schizophrenia and relies on Cate to take care of her. This isn’t the first time Cate’s heard a message about saucer people. However, her mother, who has recently been institutionalized, lucidly tells her that her mysterious, absent father is in Roswell, New Mexico, and she must find him. There’s Adeem Khan, the Pakistani-American computer geek whose conservative family was torn apart when his older sister, Leyla, came out as a lesbian and left home. Adeem receives word that she’s living in Roswell, and he tries to drive there in hopes of reuniting her with her family before the end. And finally there’s Jesse Hewitt, the hard-living dropout who doesn’t believe in all this alien crap, but realizes there’s a fast buck to be made off all these gullible suckers preparing for the end.

I liked them.

MPAA Rating: R (Intense violence, sexuality, strong language)

Cate and Adeem were somewhat comical characters. both of whom are unprepared for the collapse of civilization as we know it. Cate ends up hitching a ride with Adeem, and they head off across the American desert, getting ripped off at every turn. They had a nice buddy vibe going. When Adeem sees that Cate’s bucket list contains ‘kiss a boy’, he offers to provide the service. Not in a creepy ‘Let’s go out with a bang’ way, but the same way he offered her a ride: just as a favor. And when she turns him down, she’s more charmed than offended.

Jesse, however, has always had a hard life. His father abandoned his family, leaving behind nothing but a drawer full of losing lottery tickets and a weird-looking machine. Jesse shoplifts to keep the family afloat, and after a violent altercation with a convenience store clerk, he finds himself the target of a local gang. But Jesse is smart, and he realizes if people really buy into this Armageddon thing, he can make some easy money. He jury rigs his father’s old machine and claims that he can send messages to the aliens, to people in other cities (now that the communication networks are failing), and even to the dead. The public lines up to pay him. Including a guy named Corbin. A handsome, friendly guy, the opposite of the one night stands he’s had with local guys. But Corbin has a younger sister who may be dying of cancer. And she’s pinned her hopes on Jesse’s machine. He can’t let her down…or Corbin.

Talky Talk: Don’t Shoot the Messenger

So what would you do if you knew the world was going to end? Seriously. Spend time with your family? Loot the local mall? Tell that special someone how you’ve always felt? With the world in chaos, this trio does some serious self-examination. Has Cate been living a lie, waiting for this magical father figure who may never have existed? Did Adeem have more to do with his sister’s estrangement than he’d like to admit? And is Jesse someone worthy of being liked? Of being loved?

These journeys of self-actualization are great. Provided they have more than a week to enjoy their revelations.

Bonus Factor: Roswell, New Mexico

A UFO hovering over people with lightning in the sky

Roswell, New Mexico, was the site of the 1947 UFO incident, and the town has been milking it ever since. It’s the home to a lot of tacky tourist traps, all willing to sell you UFO-shaped desk lamps and genuine moon rocks. But now that there is actual proof of aliens (and hostile ones at that), Roswell becomes a bit of a Mecca for true believers. Cate and Adeem also head there, as they think they have family members in town. And Jesse, a local, resents the pilgrims, but is willing to take their money.

Bonus Factor: End of the World

An empty NYC street, grown over with vines and looking desolate

For those of us who remember Y2K, end of the world scares are kind of a joke. Unless, of course, aliens actually admit they’re planning on exterminating our species. Then things get crazy. Pretty much no one goes into work, shutting down communications, transportation, and law enforcement. Obsolete technology, like Adeem’s ham radio, suddenly becomes useful. People are angry and violent. Theft is rampant. And then there are people like Jesse, who think this is all a load of bull.

Meanwhile, the aliens are debating our fate. You see, they’re an ancient race, their planet’s warranty has long expired, and earth is one of the few habitable worlds in the galaxy. Surely it would be a mercy to kill off these brutish, inferior humans and make earth the new home world for their venerable race. Other committee members (the fate of humanity is decided by committee) remind everyone that the humans have not be around nearly as long as the Almans, that we too have the potential to become a great race, and that wiping out the earthlings would be nothing more than genocide.

I thought the who scenario was handled realistically. My only gripe is there were almost no ‘prophets of God,’ who I’m sure would come out of the woodwork at times like this.

Bromance Status: Friends to the End

I’ll enjoy this book to the end of time…however long that is.

Literary Matchmaking

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza

For more end times shenanigans, read Shaun David Hutchinson’s The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza.

The Rule of Three (The Rule of Three #1)

The Rule of Thre3, by Eric Walters, deals with a breakdown of technology and civilization.

METL: The Angel Weapon (METL #1)

For a post-technological society, try METL The Angel Weapon, by Scott Wilson.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor a free message to space for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.