It was reading 'Jennifer Murdley's Toad' last week that gave me the itch to reread these books. I've even gone so far as to order the other two, but I just couldn't wait for them to get in. Sometimes you just have to stop trying to sleep and start reading prepubescent classics. This was one of the first books I remember ordering through the Trumpet Club (almost as exciting as the Scholastic Book Fair!), and can you blame me? Just look at that cover!
I compared the homely heroine Jennifer Murdley to Duncan Dougall in my review as near equals in complexity. I was a trifle off the mark, though since 'My Teacher Fried My Brains' is more suitable for readers just making the transition into chapter books. It has similar elements to Coville's other writing, a great genre hook to get a reader interested with surprising multifaceted characters, but with simpler language and structure.
In the case of 'Fried' there's only one multifaceted character (I don't recall Susan ever getting past the good-girl archetype, but I'll see soon) since Peter let himself be abducted at the end of book one. Duncan Dougall was the bully in the first book and given a few lines that suggested he was misunderstood. Right off the bat here we learn his brother and his father beat on him and at school he lets his temper get the better of him. He lashes out when he suspects someone's making fun of him. His quarrelsome reputation gets ahead of Duncan and he finds at the beginning of 7th grade, in a new building no less, the teachers are already on the lookout for trouble from him.
So on the first day at school, only a few months since the end of the first book, Duncan finds evidence that Mr. Smith/Broxholm was not alone, and that there may yet still be an alien teacher at school. But nobody believes Duncan the bully. With four suspect teachers, Duncan soon finds himself the product of an unlikely experiment that fries his brains, making him a genius. Apparently he figures out cold fusion. A nice touch for the parent reading this out loud.
It's weird to say, but the most implausible thing about this book was how matter-of-fact everyone is, including the teachers and parents, about there having been an alien abduction. There are no lingering questions, no media circus. Everyone just flatly accepts that it was a tragedy*, yes, yes, now will you please just go to class and shut up? What? Where are the men in black suits?
This book also introduces an alien pet named Poot. That used to be such a barrel of laughs.
*With the exception of Peter Thompson's father. His lonely, late-night search for his missing son is an unsettling moment in the book.
My Teacher is an Alien
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