Courtney is a pretty typical kid – she’s a teenager who has trouble getting along with her mom. She loves to play soccer, and she thinks her little sister is really cute, even if she does make a nuisance of herself sometimes. And, like most of us, Courtney really wants to be “good.” She wants to be a great big sister, she wants to make her mother happy, and she wants to hang with her friends.
But Courtney has a problem. She sees aliens.
And they terrify her.
Courtney isn’t your typical (science fiction character) teen in this respect, however. She doesn’t think they’re real… really. And her mother thinks Courtney’s just letting her imagination run away with her. Even though these aliens aren’t real, their visitations terrify Courtney. It probably doesn’t help that Courtney’s beloved grandfather also believed in aliens… right up until the day he tried to drown Courtney. Eventually, Courtney is hospitalized for mental illness. While there, she meets the sister of another patient who is also having hallucinations of aliens.
And that’s when Courtney begins to learn enough to become brave enough to pursue the truth. The truth about aliens, what really happened with her grandfather, and the truth about herself.
For the most part, I enjoyed this read immensely. Courtney feels so real – she’s scared, and she feels so terribly alone. All she really wants is to be cured so she can just have a normal life. Author Brady Stefani has experience working with the mentally ill, and I think that experience shines through this novel piercingly. Even though I knew this was science fiction, I knew that the aliens were “real” (I read the plot summary. And the editorial reviews.)… Even thought I knew the aliens were real in the story… I was holding my breath, waiting for the awful realization that Courtney was, in fact, mentally ill and that her entire story was simply the imaginings of a brilliant, but ill, human mind.
There are all kinds of clues. Courtney takes terrible risks and using astonishingly and exasperatingly poor judgment, such as entering abandoned buildings with strange men. I’m not just talking about decisions her mother wouldn’t approve of – both her long time best friend and her new one are alarmed at Courtney’s actions and decisions. Courtney spends most of her time unspeakably frightened. As a reader, you begin to wonder if Courtney’s grandfather had a mental illness that skipped her mother, and is now manifesting in a new generation. And, her mother.
The character of Courtney’s mother simply broke my heart. That poor girl. Whether there were aliens or not, Courtney has to have had possibly one of the worst mothers in history. Her mother held out psychiatric hospitalization as a punishment. She constantly and consistently berates Courtney for her “imagination…” If you believe someone is mentally ill, you do not believe they can “control their imagination.” And if you don’t think someone is mentally ill, you don’t threaten them with hospitalization… and you most certainly don’t follow through. Frankly, in this reader’s opinion, Courtney’s mother only goes downhill from this point.
Mama alert: this book contains some use of profanity.
At the end of the book, we’re shown that the aliens really are real. It’s just a quirk of technology that no one remembers them except for Courtney and her new friends… most of whom she met through her initial stay at a psychiatric hospital…
The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman is available in paperback, Kindle, and Audible formats.