Number 2 of my reads for the #CannonBookClub this June, and it’s a bit of a different tone from my previous read of The Disasters, but I have really enjoyed both so far!
I Hope You Get This Message begins after earth unscrambles a message from an alien planet, stating that they will be deliberating whether or not to terminate earth within 1 week. While most of the world scrambles to bunker down or descends into chaos, this novel focuses on three teenagers each with goals of their own, mostly centered around finding people or getting messages to where they need to go before the end of the alien deliberations: Jesse just wants to find a way to give his mother a better life, Cate is looking for the father she never met after her mother gives her a letter she meant to send to him, and Adeem believes he hears a message from his sister who left home on the radio and now searches to reconnect with her.
Without giving too much away, we follow the journey of these three young people as they travel large distances or try and forge positive relationships in chaotic circumstances, finding fear and pain and serendipitously crossed paths along the way. But most of all, this novel is less about an actual alien threat, and more about being human when you don’t know if the earth will still be there in 7 days. It’s about carving out a little piece of hope when everything feels hopeless and allowing yourself to hold onto goodness and love even if you don’t think you necessarily deserve it.
The premise itself seems so simple, but a depth is given to these characters and their different journeys of self along the way. Each of them has different struggles and it doesn’t feel like they are being thrown in there for the sake of it, but rather it makes this feel like it’s real life. These characters aren’t perfect, and they don’t come from perfect households either, but they all know this and are trying their best even if it doesn’t really seem like there is much point. There is a bit of meandering throughout the novel (particularly in the physical sense of Cate and Adeem’s stories), but this just strengthens the novel as a character-driven piece, rather than a plot-driven one. The only thing I would complain about is that the ending seems to rush to its conclusion in order to tie everything up. I felt like one of the protagonists was not given the same closure or conclusion to their story as compared to the other two. And maybe that just lets the reader decide what happens next or what happened in an off-page moment, but it would have been nice to have seen the conclusions and emotional ripples from them fleshed out a little more.
Ultimately, though, I enjoyed I Hope You Get This Message quite a bit. It presents serious topics and issues within these characters lives, but there is still a lightness to it, despite the doom-and-gloom sounding premise. A nice balance is struck between being somber and optimistic. Getting to know these characters with the threat of imminent demise is bitter-sweet, but I don’t mind that in the least. Being that this is Farah Naz Rishi’s debut novel, I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.