Pod by Stephen Wallenfels (2010)
This book was shortlisted for the 2010 Cybils which is why (as a round 2 judge) I read it.
Pod features dual story lines. One features Josh who is 15/16 in Washington state and one features Megs who is 12 in California. Both of them have to fave some MAJOR problems when aliens land. Or hover. Whatever.
I didn’t mind the dual story lines. I thought the contrast was interesting between the two locations and by the end I’m pretty sure there is some connection between the stories (as improbable and thin as it is).
The alien premise was interesting and not having any closure (why did they come? etc.) was annoying but ultimately realistic I guess.
My main problem with Pod is that I hated Josh. He is a complete jerk, totally self-absorbed and ultimately a bad caricature of just about every annoying teen stereotype I can think of. I thought it was ridiculous how he second guessed his father at every turn with the water and food rationing. I was insanely annoyed by the ending of Josh’s storyline. It was, simply put, sloppy storytelling (and did I mention annoying?).
Megs’ storyline is less troubling because she wasn’t such an annoying character and it is clear she understands that survival was really important–unlike Josh. But she seemed a little flat (all of the characters did actually–it might have had to do with the sparse writing or maybe this one just really tried my patience). I also don’t think she sounds at all like a twelve year old.
Megs’ vocabulary includes a lot of expressions a twelve-year-old wouldn’t know. Similarly why does a child know about cracking open oysters? Why does she know about dehydration and how crying might not be the best thing when you’re already short on water? I get that her home life isn’t great but I don’t get how she would know those things or any number of other things.
I can see the appeal of the premise and the characters but for me Pod was ultimately really unsatisfying and deeply frustrating.