Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal. Simon & Schuster, 2012.
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Face Value: Eye-catching, for sure. Ray guns! Outer space! And…a pregnant lady? I first saw this cover on the Forever Young Adult blog and it looked weird but intriguing, which is a combination that makes me run right to my library website and put a hold on a book. This bright, over-the-top cover is an indicator of the wild space adventures contained within it.
Does it break the slate? Yes. I initially thought this book would focus more on teen pregnancy and sexuality, but it was mostly space shenanigans. It was still Slatebreaking! Elvie, our star impregnated teenager, is one amazing lady. Even though she is almost ready to burst forth with a baby, she takes the lead in rescuing an entire ship of pregnant women from an alien invasion.
Who would we give it to? Teen readers who feel tepid about science fiction. This story is set in the future, but the U.S. American culture hasn’t changed too much, and this is more snark than it is science fiction. Readers who couldn’t quite get on board with the dramatic romance and tension of Across the Universe may find Mothership to be more to their taste.
Review: If this book had a theme song, it would be N*SYNC’s “Space Cowboy [Yippie-Yi-Yay]”. Take a moment to go back and listen to that gem from 2000. It’s ok, I know you want to. The hubris and gleeful kitsch of that song is exactly what you will find in Mothership. Elvie is a teenager who finds herself knocked up after just one – one! – sexual encounter. She decides to go away to the Hanover boarding school for pregnant teenagers…in space. Because it’s the mid-twenty-first century and you can do that kind of stuff now. The Hanover school is former space cruise ship, renovated to serve as a safe and pleasant learning environment for young women about to give birth.
Pregnant Elvie finds her time on the ship to be quite tedious. She’s not a big fan of school in any form, and she desperately misses her beloved dad and best friend, Ducky. She’s not thrilled with her predicament, as the young man who impregnated her promptly ditched her when she informed him of the baby’s arrival. Also, her arch-nemesis Britta McVicker (think Regina King from Mean Girls) happens to be on the ship as well. Because she’s pregnant too. With a baby co-created by the same guy who Elvie had sex with. And Britta doesn’t know that they share a baby-daddy. Oh, snap.
Amidst the nightmarish fluctuating hormones aboard the ship, Elvie doesn’t think that things can get much worse. She cannot wait to have her baby, give it up for adoption, and get out of there. But then aliens invade the ship! And her baby-daddy is one of the aliens! Which means that Elvie is carrying an alien baby! And the teachers on the ship are aliens too, but from a different species! Things quickly get messy as the alien factions battle for control of the ship and the pregnant teen humans have to fight to survive. Think I’m giving too much away? Don’t worry. That’s not even half of the crazy events that unfold aboard the ship.
My little summary probably already implied this, but I’ve got to be candid with you: this book is wack-a-doo. Seriously, every time I said to myself, “Well, it can’t get any weirder than this,” it did. But never, not once, did I ever want to put this book down. I devoured it in all of its weirdo glory. The writing is engaging, and Elvie is a character who I would want to have as my friend.
I noticed that Leicht and Neal created some unusual futuristic slang that I did not fully understand. Like “blinking” a friend, for example. This was the term for sending messages back and forth on a phone. I did not quite get why texting/tweeting would be called something different when other technological elements were still called the same thing that we call them now. There was other weird slang, too. Between this book and Megan McCafferty’s Bumped and Thumped books, I do not have high hopes for the future of the English language. If, you know, life turns out to be like science fiction.
This book is not necessarily the uber-feminist futuristic manifesto that I thought it could be. Elvie has to make tough choices about whether or not to keep her baby, and some readers may not agree with the decision that she makes. The descriptions of teen sexuality in the book also seem fairly traditional. However, Elvie makes her decisions independently. The “Slatebreakingness” of this book is less about Elvie’s progressive decisions regarding pregnancy and motherhood (because they aren’t that progressive), but more about her ability to remain calm and strategic in the face of chaos. Elvie is a natural leader. While other girls are screaming and crying in terror, Elvie is assessing the situation and figuring out how to solve the problem. She single-handedly saves the lives of a whole group of girls and their unborn children. She’s also an excellent judge of character and can usually tell when someone has hidden intentions. Elvie is role model and a Slatebreaker because she doesn’t need anyone to tell her how to handle a situation. She will figure it out on her own. She’s a critical thinker and problem solver. Sure, she may also be a teen who succumbed in a moment of lust and ended up in a situation that she’s not thrilled about, but she’s not going to let that stop her from living her life.
The book has a cliffhanger ending, which usually bugs me, but in this case it made me even more excited because it introduced a gender-related twist. That means that the next book will have to address that and has the potential to be even more unusual and Slatebreaking! I can’t wait. Although this book is definitely the oddball on my summer reading list, it was one of the most endearing books I’ve had the pleasure to read this year.
Reviewed from a library copy.