This week I received Jonny Sun’s first novel, “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too: a book” in the mail. I had pre-ordered it in the fall when Jonny first announced its release on Twitter. His account, @jonnysun, takes the form of a journal of an alien (or, “aliebn”) that has come to Earth to learn about humans. His tweets are hilarious and yet deeply insightful to the workings of society and human nature.
Is Sun’s book a comic? A graphic novel? A picture book? I feel it to be a combination, like a picture book the (physical) size of a novel. It is a quick read; I got through it in around fifteen minutes. But what a wonderful fifteen minutes it was. The main character Jomny explores every angle — light or dark — of human nature without a single human character ever appearing on a page. With the help of new friends that come in the forms of a tree, a hedgehog, a bear, some bees, a flower, a frog, and an egg, Jomny discovers the complexities of life on Earth. He explores the issues of anxiety, loss, curiosity, isolation, identity, love, and the fear of “Nothing,” which even becomes a cleverly written character in the narrative.
Each panel brings forth a new and exciting situation for Jomny, usually crafted with witty dark humour, puns, or simply pure love and beauty (see: any panel with the dog). Jomny discovers that not every “humabn” is the same, making the world much more difficult to navigate than he had anticipated. Jomny feels as lost on the foreign planet of Earth as many of us do with it as our home. The book brings forth difficult truths, some that most of us try to forget. Loss and death are used in both silly and frightening contexts – sometimes even simultaneously. Every single panel is packed with emotion.
Don’t let the minimalistic drawings and misspelled text in a childlike font fool you. This book hit me emotionally in a way no other book has. A silly conversation with a tree quickly becomes a contemplation on life and death. The bees are hesitant to love anyone, fearing they might sting them, but desperately wish for friendship… but is that not a beautiful metaphor for any emotionally damaged person afraid to love, in the fear that it might end badly? A hedgehog discovers art. An egg has an identity crisis. Each character is carefully crafted to send a distinct message. “Everyone’s a aliebn” represents each of our own lives. I guarantee each reader will identify with at least one character, and discover something in themselves as the character does.
Jonny has tweeted some previews of his book, and they perfectly encapsulate the spirit of his narrative: silly yet profound, melancholy, and pure.
The thing is, this book is suitable for all ages. It will teach young children about the world before they experience it, and it will help those who already have to cope. Jomny is a naive, innocent, and curious little character that we can all relate to in one way or another. There is much to learn from Sun’s narrative. I do not want to reveal the ending or the larger parts of the book as it is still the first week of its release, and I could not possibly attempt to describe how the book made me feel. I do want you, reader, to go to your local bookstore and purchase this book, or order it online. Please experience this beautiful piece of literature.
“Jomny Sun’s incredible writing knocks you to the floor, breathless, then scoops you up and gives you a kiss where it hurts before it occurs to you to cry. Read this book only if you want to feel more alive.” – Lin-Manuel Miranda
“Jomny Sun has created a frightened, hopeful view of Life As We Know It from the perspective of a weirdly relatable alien intelligence. Fantastic.” – Patton Oswalt
“This book is funny and sad, simple and complex, badly spelled and beautifully written. Jonmy Sun gets more out of a panel than most do out of a page, revealing obvious yet hidden truths as only someone one step out of step could.” – Joss Whedon