It could be the end of Earth as they know it. A newly discovered alien planet that calls itself Alma has sent humanity a message: In seven days, it will decide whether or not to destroy Earth. But three teens have more pressing problems in Farah Naz Rishi’s dynamic debut, I Hope You Get This Message.
Since his dad died, Jesse has been trying to ensure he and his mom don’t lose their home in Roswell, New Mexico. Although the Latino teen dates other guys, he never gets too close to them. Cate, on the other hand, has a bucket list of actions she wants to check off in San Francisco, but finds it hard to take care of herself while also caring for her schizophrenic single mom. Finally, Adeem, an amateur radio enthusiast in Carson City, Nevada, is still grieving the loss of his older sister, Leyla, who ran away from their Muslim family after coming out. As the possible apocalypse motivates Cate to search for her long-lost father and Adeem to search for Leyla, Jesse uses his dad’s abandoned computer in a scheme to charge gullible travelers to send their final wishes to Alma.
This nuanced and realistic story (with a twist of science fiction) is driven not merely by Jesse, Cate and Adeem’s journeys, but by the moments where those journeys intersect. The novel aptly culminates in Roswell, a town at the heart of alien lore. Along with the three protagonists’ points of view, Rishi also includes excerpts from the aliens’ deliberations on Alma; the alien perspective provides an enlightening, external look at the harsh realities and endless potential of human beings. For Adeem, Cate, Jesse and readers alike, the end of the world might turn out to be the beginning of hope.