Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Strange Matter #14: Plant People

PLANT PEOPLE is your typical weird-neighbors-move-in-next-door type of story, only imagine that the neighbors are strange botanical creatures that are disguised as regular people and secretly trying to overtake the entire human race. Oh, and it's up to 8th grader Rachel Pearson to stop the whole plant circus from spinning into motion, because her parents don't believe her crazy stories. No pressure, right?

I wanted this story to be way cooler than it turned out to be, simply because I grow carnivorous plants, and with that experience comes an expectation of particularly wicked greenery. The cover alone, which is fitted with a grinning, Audrey II look-alike, seems to promise plenty of botanical misadventures. And it does deliver on some levels, just not all.

Rachel meets the two bizarre neighbor kids early on in the story. One of them likes to eat bugs and the other enjoys pocketing handfuls of dirt because it's of "good quality". They both talk a little bit too properly, as does the whole new neighboring Smith family, which, in addition to the strange behavior, initially alerts Rachel to something being "off". This is all after Rachel collects a strange seed from the forest behind her house, and as things progress, it eventually hatches out of her backpack in the school locker room, and then proceeds to grow to monstrous proportions and try to do away with her. This was actually one of the cooler scenes in the book, complete with dozens of hungry vines/tendrils that carry Rachel about the locker room like a rag doll.

One of the funnier moments, and a definite 90s throwback/reference, is when Rachel's dad comes home from playing golf and wants to watch "Pierwatch". I'll let you figure out what beach-running sitcom the author was alluding to there! There was a good sense of suspense in this Strange Matter entry, just because the reader is left wondering throughout the whole book what the Smith family is ultimately going to do to Rachel and her parents, and when it all comes out, the action gets really good. I can really see kids enjoying this one. Who hasn't had a weird family move into their neighborhood? This would clear up so much for kids--obviously every weird, new family is secretly made of plants. Obviously.

Could have been better, could have been much worse, PLANT PEOPLE is a solid Strange Matter entry. Although I'm still waiting for a really good carnivorous plant story to come along and do them justice. Maybe it's my job to write it...we'll see!

I give PLANT PEOPLE a 3.5 out of 5.

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