Book Review: I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi

Seven days. Seven days. The Earth might end in seven days.

When news stations start reporting that Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization.

For high school truant Jesse Hewitt, though, nothing has ever felt permanent. Not the guys he hooks up with. Not the jobs his underpaid mom works so hard to hold down. Life has dealt him one bad blow after another — so what does it matter if it all ends now? Cate Collins, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she’s never met, the man she grew up hearing wild stories about, most of which she didn’t believe. And then there’s Adeem Khan. While coding and computer programming have always come easily to him, forgiveness doesn’t. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance.

With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart.


ARC Review by Nicole Yao:

I want to put this out there. If you pick up this book expecting a fast paced Scifi adventure story – it’s the exact opposite and that’s why I loved it. Don’t get me wrong I love a good action adventure but there’s just something tender about “quiet” stories. Stories that revolve around “normal” people just trying to cope with the changes they get thrown into. In fact you could say this is a road trip story with a dooms day backdrop. So while yes, the earth may be destroyed in a week this isn’t a story about trying to stop that from happening but rather it poses the question of “ if you knew you only had a few days left to live what would you do?” and that’s exactly what our three protagonists set out to answer for themselves.

The book opens with introducing to us the wider stakes with a group of aliens discussing the fate of mankind. I want to mention that I liked the authors depiction of aliens in the sense that they aren’t just these man eating- lets destroy everything because we are aliens and that’s what we do – beings. No, they are literally having a conference with pros and cons. It was a nice touch to the whole “we are just like them, is this ethical?” concept. Admittedly that broad theme/plot point took a back seat for the rest of the book but I think that’s ok because the author never intended that to be the main focus of her story. Instead, she, in my opinion, focus on relationships between characters. From friendships to family dynamics she touched on topics like race, sexuality, coming of age, mental health and how those things differ depending on your circumstances.

Now, that being said I want to talk about the three protagonists – Jesse, Cate, and Adeem. I loved their individual story arcs and how they eventually get intertwined. I also loved the fact that they were so human in their choices and flaws. Cate lives with her mother who has Schizophrenia (I have issues about this that I want to touch on later). Her mother gives Cate a letter for her father and she decides to find him as the world is ending. Throughout the story she struggles with her guilt about wanting to live her life for herself. Is it ok to want something more or is that a betrayal to her mother? It’s these questions that drive her to go to Roswell New Mexico and cross paths with Adeem along the way. Adeem for his part wants to find his sister who, after coming out to her family, ran away. Thinking there’s no chance they would accept her. He likes Cate’s struggles with what exactly he should do in life despite having a brilliant mind for coding. Then we have Jesse, who arguably I related to a lot. He lives with his mom after his dad dies leaving behind a lot of debt. He has depression and anger management issues. All three of them present a different side of the same problem. “What exactly should I be doing with my life?” admittedly they aren’t the most memorable characters but again I don’t think they’re trying to be, in the sense that we can all relate to them one way or another. We all have regrets and we’re all constantly asking ourselves either what we should do or what we’re even allowed to do to start living our lives the way we want.

I also appreciated how the author balanced the personal stakes of the characters with what was happening around them. A lot of the events depicted eerily mirrored what was happening in reality at this point in time with COVID – 19 and the social distancing and quarantines being experienced around the world. For a time there was mass hysteria and panic buying to the point groceries and drug stores looked ransacked. In a way this was a timely read for me. A fair warning though for those who want to pick this book up. This book does deal with suicide, mass shooting, riots, robbery and racism not at the forefront but it is included in the wider scheme of things. Also just know this book does have an open ending so if you are the type of reader that needs things clear without any loose ends fair warning to you.

All in all I enjoyed this book because of the social commentary and relevant issues we face today.

In summary:

Pros:

  • Good representation
  • Relevant themes
  • Good character relationships
  • Seamless blending of wide and narrow stakes
  • Accessible writing style

(Personal) cons:

  • The ending
  • How certain characters where labeled
  • Slow pacing

Star rating:

I gave this book a solid four stars. I think the author accomplished what she wanted to write about in a relevant way. I recommend this book to everyone. I also highly recommend the audiobook. It does a good job of setting the tone of the story.

More in-depth thoughts: (WARNING FOR POSSIBLE SPOILERS)

What I liked:

Diversity

I’ve said this before but I like books that don’t use diversity as a marketing tool to go “LOOK I have representation come read me!” because it personally feels cheap to me. Granted now a days I see diversity being treated as a normal thing. It’s great that readers can now see themselves represented in the literature they consume.

Realistic depiction of society

I really liked how the author handled the way we would react to the news that we could possibly die in 7 days. There were people who held on to religion and prayed, people who committed suicide, people who didn’t believe this was real and it was realistic. As I’ve said right now the world is in the middle of a pandemic and I can see the reflection of society in this book.

Mental health

I’m kind of torn between liking, or disliking how mental health was portrayed in the book because on one hand you have Jesse with good representation but then you get Cate’s mother. I won’t lie, I was disappointed with the way the author portrayed her. I will say I don’t personally know anyone with Schizophrenia so, I don’t have firsthand experience BUT I have seen people talking and working through their difficulties with their family and I can say they have more sides to them other than that stereotypical “Oh no she hears voices that make her do things 24/7” type of deal. Yes, they can have episodes but not to the point where it’s like that every day. I especially hate it when their condition is used as a plot device to propel the story. On the flip side we have Jesse who represents a side of depression we don’t normally see in books. When people normally think of depression they picture someone sad, alone and closed off and while Jesse was those things he was also very angry and all that pent up anger resulted in him picking fights and closing himself from the rest of the world. I appreciated that because not a lot of people see anger as a form of depression but it is very real and deserves the same attention.

Friendships  

Contrary to most readers I actually appreciate the fact when there’s no clean cut romance in a book. Instead we get this slow friendship between Adeem and Cate. Who were brought together by events out of their control. It was wholesome, awkward and great.

The Title

I hope you get this message is such a smart, poetic title for this book. From the letter Cate’s delivering to her father to Adeem hearing his sister’s voice through the radio and trying to reach her to the machine Jesse uses to give hope to people wanting to reach Alma and their loved ones. It’s perfect because it encapsulates the story’s main theme, hope, and what we can do because of it.

What I did not like:

Slow pacing

One thing that might turn off readers is the slow pacing of this book. As I’ve said it’s mostly a “quiet” story so even some of the major scenes can seem to lack impact. I will say I listened to the audiobook while reading the physical book so that helped me appreciate the atmosphere more.

Labeling

There was one instance of “labeling” I found very bothersome. It was the use of gay to refer to Adeem’s sister. I will preface this by saying that I understand everyone has their own preference when it comes to how they want to be identified and by no means am I policing anyone. I don’t want to claim I know everything there is just because I’m part of the community. There are definitely terms and nuances I don’t know about. Some are ok being called queer or gay because to them it’s an umbrella term but as someone who gets irked about using wrong labels in books, it bothered me.

The ending

I’ve said in my general thoughts that this book does have an open ending but that’s not really what bothered me. What bothered me was that slight suggestion that Jesse and Cate “could” have the same father. Only because that seemed to over the top for me and kind of wasn’t a satisfying end to Cate’s story. Though I do see why it was framed that way. I think the author needed everything to connect at the end and that was Cate’s connection it just seemed to farfetched after everything else.

BUY THE BOOK!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Book Depository | Libro.FM


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Farah Naz Rishi is a Pakistani-American Muslim writer and voice actor, but in another life, she’s worked stints as a lawyer, a video game journalist, and an editorial assistant. She received her B.A. in English from Bryn Mawr College, her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, and her love of weaving stories from the Odyssey Writing Workshop. When she’s not writing, she’s probably hanging out with video game characters. You can find her at home in Philadelphia, or on Twitter at @far_ah_way.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER


sddfas

Nicole is a combination of well-worn sandals, over-steeped mint tea leaves and sand found in tropical beaches given a breath of life by baked goods and delicious dishes. When she isn’t reading she can be found hopping into whatever newly found rabbit hole that catches her fancy. (Be warned she may obsessively talk about said rabbit hole when you cross paths)

Social media handles:

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/87813085-nicole-niibookreader

Instagram:

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