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Literature / The True Meaning of Smekday

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The True Meaning of Smekday is a humorous Young Adult Science Fiction story written by Adam Rex and published by Hyperion/Disney. It all starts with a school essay. When twelve-year-old Gratuity ("Tip") Tucci is assigned to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for the National Time Capsule contest, she's not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens - called Boov - abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod?

In any case, Gratuity's story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity's mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion. Fully illustrated with "photos", drawings, newspaper clippings, and comics sequences, this books breathes new life into the "Kid Hero" genre.


The book was loosely adapted into a movie by DreamWorks, titled Home (2015), and was released in March 2015, starring Rihanna, Jim Parsons, and the actual J-Lo.

Tropes in this book:

  • Affectionate Parody: Of the Kid Hero genre, and also of most "alien invasion" movies.
  • Alien Abduction: Gratuity's mom and others are abducted a few months before the actual alien invasion to teach the Boov English.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: Most Boov knowledge of Earth's pop culture comes from their television programs.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Somewhat justified in that the Gorg are all clones of the same chaotic individual, but his race, the Nimrog, wasn't much better, having a 300-year civil war over a parking space.
  • Art Shift: Things like the history of the Boov and the Nimrogs are told in the style of a graphic novel.
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The Boov think of themselves as this, and indeed they begin to come off as such once the highly-destructive Gorg show up. (The Gorg in turn manage to convince some key humans that they are this, offering the cure for cancer.)
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  • Big Red Button: One of the koobish who were transported to the moon via capsule leans on this, and causes the capsule to explode.
  • Bizarre Alien Sexes: The Boov aliens have 7 sexes that translate in English to: girl, boy, boygirl, girlboy, boyboy, boyboygirl, and boyboyboyboy.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: While the Gorg are attacking, J.Lo calls them poomps, which he follows with Gratuity's catchphrase, "Pardon my language".
  • Brainless Beauty: Gratuity's mom Lucy starts out like this, but later shows her leadership skills.
  • Catchphrase: Gratuity's is "Pardon my language." These turn out to be her last words.
  • Celebrity Survivor: The culture of celebrity worship continues even after every human being in America has been moved to Arizona. Actors now live in "New Hollywood" (Scottsdale), where they "fill their days with activities such as smiling and waving at cats as they anticipate the eventual restart of the film industry." Musical artists live in Sedona and perform benefit concerts to raise awareness of the alien invasion.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The book catches a really quick wind of it at the end. See Deadly Distant Finale and Downer Ending below.
  • Character Blog: a site for the time capsule Gratuity sends her essay to.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • J.Lo's story of how the Boov were forced out of the sea is equivalent to global warming.
    • Putting the humans on reservations. This is directly paralleled with the history of Native Americans as embodied in the Chief.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: The Gorg are extremely allergic to cats. They try to remedy this by killing any and all cats on the planet.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Gratuity, so named because her mom did not know what Gratuity meant when she was born, as well as J.Lo, who learned his pop culture from TV.
  • Fantastic Vermin: The newspaper clipping on the last page has a cut-off article about how koobish, a species native to the Boov's homeword, have an excessively large population in New Mexico.
  • Flying Saucer: A fake one. With a real one hidden inside.
  • Founding Day: The titular Smekday is an anniversary of when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of their glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod.
  • Gender-Blender Name: J.Lo, a male alien named for a female pop star. The fact that his species has seven genders only serves to make everyone more confused.
  • Ghetto Name: Gratuity. (Her friends call her Tip.)
  • Higher-Tech Species: Humanity is low in the pecking order, with the Boov able to defeat them through superior tech and the Gorg, having manipulated and improved Boov technology, superior to the Boov in turn.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The Gorg. While Tip has made jokes about the Boov while still painting them as scary, the Gorg are mostly terrifying.
  • Living Ship: The Gorg ships are shielded with cloned Gorg skin.
  • Magical Native American: The Chief is a subversion of sorts of this.
  • Mars Needs Women: Very much subverted, along with the Male-to-Female Universal Adaptor (the Boov have seven genders, one of which lays an egg which then requires input from all six of the other genders): regarding a Conspiracy Theorist who believe that the Boov plan to impregnate human women, J.Lo notes that this is about as possible for his species as impregnating a car.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The book starts around 2013 which was about six years after when it was written.
  • Noah's Story Arc: The Boov's mythology contains a story with obvious parallels to the human Noah's Ark story, in which—since most of the planet's species are aquatic—a girl puts animals in a jar full of water to save them from a great drought. Unfortunately, she forgets to poke holes and they die of asphyxiation.
  • No Such Thing as Alien Pop Culture: Averted. The Boov are said to have at least Fun Shirts, nursery rhymes, and comic books. Their television, on the other hand, became too advanced, to the point where there were far more shows and channels than any Boov could watch and the Boov leaders finally cracked down on it after making dire predictions. (Tip points out that this is much the same attitude Earth authorities have toward television.)
  • Parking Payback: The Nimrogs, a highly violent species of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, are revealed to have fought themselves into extinction (save one) in a 300-year-old civil war that originally started over a parking space.
  • Pig Latin: A group of runaway boys use pig Latin (badly) because the Boov can't read it.
  • Planet of Steves: Gorg isn't the species- it's all of their names (they're clones).
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Quite literally; J.Lo is adopted into Tip's family, and the obituary describing her death at age 113 mentions that she was survived by her husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren "and one Boov."
  • Running Gag: This book has a lot of death by asphyxiation from Boov and koobish.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Boov and the Gorg fall into the "Aliens as Conquistadores" category, with the Boov being an obvious parody of colonialism (by putting all humans on reservations).
  • Serious Business: Downplayed as Boov comic books. To them, these are serious history books.
  • Shaped Like Itself: According to their own units of measurement, the Gorg "are exactly one Gorg tall and weigh roughly a Gorg."
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Curly. Luckily, Gratuity replaces his expletives with "bleep".
  • Souvenir Land: "Happy Mouse Kingdom", a thinly veiled parody of Disney World.
  • Starfish Language: The Boov's written language is bubbles and their spoken language, apparently, would require sheep and some bubblewrap if a human wanted to do it. One of their major cultural figures is called "Sound-of-a-crying-baby-riding-on-a-duck-which-is-talking-with-its-mouth-full".
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: While in Florida's Happy Mouse Kingdom, Tip encounters a group of boys calling themselves the BOOB, or "Brotherhood Organized against Oppressive Boov." When Tip points out that this should be "BOAOB," one of the boys replies, "We really wanted it to be BOOB." Later, in Roswell, she meets two young boys who have a completely unrelated club called BOOB, or "Backyard Telescope Observation of Occupation by Boov": when she asks if it shouldn't be "BTOOB," they respond, "BOOB sounds better."
    Boys. Honestly.
  • Your Mom: The Boovish "children's play song" with which J.Lo accidentally invokes the wrath of the Gorg literally translates to English as "Gorg are dumb, dumb like soap, their wives are wider than they should be." As J.Lo notes, this is kind of a strange insult as the Gorg don't even have wives (nor, for that matter, do the Boov).