Smek for President!: The Smek Smeries, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Smek for President!: The Smek Smeries, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Girl blasts off to alien moon in wacky, wise sci-fi sequel.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids hear about elections and what makes them work; time travel; space aliens; prejudice; and the difficulty of figuring out what's what in a foreign environment. There's a bit of astronomy, as much of the action takes place on one of Saturn's moons.

Positive Messages

As in much of Adam Rex's work, much sweetness and wisdom coexist with the barrage of zaniness. Stand by your friends, even when you disagree; sometimes it saves the world! Also: Mom fixes everything.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tip and J. Lo's friendship gets them through good times and bad. Though absent for much of the story, Tip's mom, Ms. Tucci, is a powerful force, and while mother and daughter sometimes have a rocky relationship, woe to anyone who means harm to Tip or J.Lo. Chief Shouting Bear, who's actually deceased, gives Tip much valuable advice.

Violence & Scariness

Serious perils, such as space guns, unwanted surgery, and the potential destruction of entire planets, come up frequently but don't result in much trouble. In one battle scene, combatants fall off a precipice to what would be their doom, if they weren't immediately cushioned in bubbles. Koobishes, creatures on the Boov world, are the favorite food of the Boov, who munch on them without apparently causing them harm. J. Lo creates mayhem by attacking inappropriate objects, such as pouncing on a girl's furry boots because he thinks they're anklewolves. Tip has frequent conversations with a deceased character.

Language

Some butt-themed and bathroom humor in both human and Boovish culture.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Adam Rex's Smek for President! is the follow-up to his 2007 debut, The True Meaning of Smekday (adapted for the March 2015 movie Home). Rex's trademark mix of pure looniness, wild imagination, snarky comments, sudden wisdom, and sweet moments, complicated by oddball parent-child relationships, is in fine form, as protagonist Tip and her alien pal J. Lo take her Chevy-turned-spaceship to Titan, a moon of Saturn, where the inhabitants of J. Lo's world now live. The story combines text and graphic-novel sections and delivers the goods in letting young readers share more wildly improbable adventures with the unlikely protagonists, complete with messages of family, friendship, and doing the right thing. There's also plenty of mild, occasionally hysterical butt- and bathroom-oriented humor. 

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What's the story?

Now 13, Gratuity "Tip" Tucci is having to make a few adjustments in the wake of her zany, world-saving adventures in The True Meaning of Smekday. For one thing, her mom, the formidable Ms. Tucci, is no longer abducted by aliens, so Tip has to follow a lot more rules. Also, the Boov alien known as J. Lo, Tip's companion for most of the first book, is living with them but having trouble getting along with the locals. Then J. Lo learns that, back on the Boov world, he's being blamed for pretty much everything bad that happened to the Boov in Book 1. So, defying the woman known as Tipmom, the two head to the Boov world in the decrepit car Slushious, now converted to a spaceship. There, J. Lo is soon thrown into a dungeon, and Tip must brave sleazy politicians, flying billboards, people-sucking transport tubes, garbage-disposal facilities, space guns, and lots more if she's to save him. 

Is it any good?

Just fasten your seatbelts and hold onto your hats, because Adam Rex is in classic form here. I mean, what can you say about a book whose narrator/protagonist is a 13-year-old with the given name Gratuity, who goes by Tip, whose BFF is a short gelatinous alien who goes by the name J. Lo and who often converses with a deceased character from a previous installment in the tale? A book that features the unlikely meeting of the pop star and her otherworldly namesake at the Latin Grammys?

Also in classic form is a relentless marketing machine. Smek for President! coincides with the March 2015 release of the movie Home, a somewhat altered version of The True Meaning of Smekday. Just in case you might miss that fact, the book cover features a fetching portrait of the protagonists with the announcement that this is the series that inspired "Home, Now A Major Motion Picture." Protagonist/narrator Tip begins her tale with "Maybe you read some other  book that got the Smekday Invasion wrong, or saw that animated movie they made about it ... " If you didn't, she brings you up to speed anyway, as the events of the first book play a large role in the second installment of a planned series -- as does a fair amount of foreshadowing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Parents can talk about space aliens and why people like stories about them. Do you think aliens really exist? Would you like to meet them or stay far, far away?

  • In the movie Home, the Boov protagonist's name is no longer J. Lo. Why do you suppose this might be? What do you think will happen when they make a movie of the sequel and have to deal with the Boov known as Rihanna?

  • Adam Rex's books combine graphic-novel sections with text narrative. Do you think this is the best way to tell these stories, or would you prefer something else?

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