89 pages 2 hours read

We're Not from Here

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2019

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Summary and Study Guide


We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey is a middle grade science fiction novel about the discrimination humans face migrating to a new planet after their own violent tendencies destroy Earth. The book was nominated for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award, Florida Sunshine State Book Award, and the Maine Student Book Award in 2020, as well as the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award and New Mexico Land of Enchantment Book Award in 2021. Geoff Rodkey was born in 1970 and grew up in Freeport, Illinois. He’s the bestselling author of over 10 novels for adult and young readers, including The Tapper Twins series and Marcus Makes a Movie (written with Kevin Heart, 2021). He received an Emmy nomination for his satire of the 1996 US election on Comedy Central; other film credits include the Daddy Daycare films (2003-2007) and The Shaggy Dog (2006). He lives in New York City. This guide follows the 2020 Penguin Random House edition of We’re Not From Here.

Plot Summary

We’re Not From Here is narrated by Lan Mifune, a human child who had to flee Earth with their family when radiation destroyed the planet. At the story’s outset, Lan and the remaining humans have lived on Mars for about a year while scientists and government officials hunt for a planet capable of sustaining human life. They find one called Choom, which is home to four intelligent species; the most prominent are called the Zhuri and resemble giant mosquitos. After eight months of negotiations, the people of Choom agree to let the human settle there. It will take 20 years to reach Choom. Those making the trip are put into bio-suspension, but when they wake after the long journey, the Zhuri have changed their minds about letting the humans stay.

Desperate and with nowhere else to go, the humans beg the Zhuri government to reconsider. After a few days of negotiating, the Zhuri allow a single family to settle as a test; the human government chooses Lan’s family because Ila, Lan’s sister, is a semi-famous singer and Choom’s residents expressed interest in human culture. Apprehensive and hopeful, Lan’s family makes the trip, only to encounter a mob of angry Zhuri who spit venom at them and yell for them to leave. Though the humans just want to live in peace and start their lives anew, the Zhuri are convinced the humans are going to disrupt Choom’s peace just as they destroyed Earth.

Lan, Ila, and their parents do their best to fit in, but the Zhuri’s overwhelming dislike and Ila’s depression at losing the singing career she had on Earth make staying positive difficult. They discover that one of Choom’s species is gone, killed in a massacre because of a cultural ceremony that sent the Zhuri into a rage, or “swarm.” Though the Zhuri feel horrible about what they did, they refuse to acknowledge that their own violent tendencies led them to lose control; they claim “emotion” caused the massacre and have officially banned it. Now, they blame the humans for stirring up emotion.

Lan hatches a plan to get the Zhuri on their side by entertaining them, showing that emotions are not the cause of the Zhuri’s problems. Lan does comedy skits at school, prompting the Zhuri government to crack down on the humans for daring to incite emotion. In a last-ditch effort to prove humans aren’t violent, Ila and Lan show a video of comedy and Ila’s singing, which gets them arrested.

Following Lan and Ila’s arrest, the Zhuri swarm the jail where they’re imprisoned, as well as the spaceport where their parents are being detained. With the help of some friends from Choom’s other races, Lan and Ila break out of jail and go to the spaceport, where Ila’s singing calms the angry Zhuri mob, proving that the humans do not inspire violence. Lan and Ila reunite with their parents, and the book ends 162 days after the rest of the humans land on the planet, showing the four species living in harmony; Lan and representatives of Choom’s other species have even started their own comedy show.