Earthlings¬†is Natsuki’s story from childhood to adulthood. She and her cousin bond over summer vacation at her grandparents. They both have mothers who deprive them of love and security. Yuu’s mother threatens him with abandonment. Natsuki’s mother is verbally abusive and seems only to love her older sister. She has a stuffed hedgehog who is her comfort, an alien from the planet Popinpobopia. When Yuu says he is alien, she is certain he is from Popinpobopia, too. Thus forms a lifelong connection.

Natsuki also struggles with a teacher who is inappropriate. When she tries to tell her mother, she is punished. Fear makes her desperate to connect with Yuu and that leads to an epic disaster that ends her visits to the grandparents in the mountains for the rest of her childhood. When she returns as an adult, wow!

Earthlings is fantastic. However, don’t start it before going to bed. First, you won’t be able to put it down after reading the first chapter. More importantly, once you finish it, you won’t be able to sleep. There is this amazing combination of naivete and determination in Natsuki. She is so submissive in some ways, but her submission encompasses a form of rebellion and resistance. She might physically give in to pressure, but she finds a way to frustrate the purpose of that pressure. I like her understanding of society as a form of factory. She is the nonconformist who is driven mad by conformity.

I received an e-galley of Earthlings from the publisher through Edelweiss.