Title: I Hope You Get This Message by Farah Naz Rishi
Publication date: 22 October 2019
Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult | Science fiction
Page extent: 400 pages
Goodreads blurb: 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.
Quiet SFF won 2019, yes I said it. This is another genre-blending book combining the mystery and magic of science fiction with the heavy character driven narratives of contemporary YA. In I Hope You Get This Message this results in an emotional portrayal of three teens at the end of the world, trying to keep their families together.
The book follows three POVs: Jesse, a kid who struggles with depression and has had a hard life after his dad died with high debt; Cate, living with her schizophrenic mum as her hallucinations worsen, trying to track down her father at her mother’s request; Adeem, desperately hurt and angry at the sister who abandoned him two years ago but desperate to find her before the end of the world. These three stories take all three to Roswell, where their journey to find their families and discover what matters to them at the end of the world will merge, and end.
I Hope You Get This Message is a wonderful debut. Each of the three POVs have their own voice and unique character which makes it a really easy and unconfusing read, which is a fault I often find with multiple POV books. Of the characters, I do think Jesse’s voice shone above the rest. I can’t say I liked him as a person (he seems to have a bit of the ‘I’ll destroy everything good in my world then blame the world for it’ trait), but his voice was so incredibly strong. I also think his flaws are incredibly realistic for the life he has held – so whilst I don’t necessarily like him because of them, I understood him and his actions so well. But sometimes I did just want to scream through the pages at him ‘JESSE NOOOOO’. I also thought the portrayal of his depression was well written; particularly the handling of his self-harm/wrist cuff: to clarify, there are no scenes of self harm, just mentions of the past event, but when it is discussed it really grabs you with the intensity of emotion.
Cate and Adeem are both still strong, but I think perhaps lacked a bit of the intensity of Jesse. Cate’s journey to find her father is interesting, living as she is for her mother’s desires and not her own. It was interesting to see her come to terms and accept that this is how she lives across the book, with an exceptional line ending her last POV. Adeem has another very interesting journey with his sister: from the strong desire to find her to reconnect his family, to the anger that courses through him that she left, his feelings are complicated and in-depth.
I really loved the crossovers between the POVs. Side characters we know cross between these three lives but without the three at the centre knowing this. I love that sense of all knowing as a reader, and I loved seeing the three characters come together and intersect as the book progressed.
The sci-fi element, whilst forming the basis of the premise for this novel, is not at the forefront. Instead, it’s an ever constant but quiet guiding force throughout the book for the characters. I enjoyed the short interludes interspersed throughout the book about the aliens discussing the fate of Earth, which kept the sci-fi more central, though I felt these short sections lacked a sense of urgency. There was no progression of tension amongst them, as I would have expected as the aliens get closer and closer to their deadline of Earth destruction.
All in all, I think I Hope You Get This Message is a brilliant debut. With easy, everyday diversity (take note SFF authors, this is how to do it!!!), well developed characters and the different discussions of family, this is definitely one to pick up!
Rach + Draco