Meet me, Jarra. Earth girl.
It’s the year 2788, and the universe is divided into two different kinds of people: the Norms, who can portal between other planets, and people like me, the one in a thousand who are born with an immune system which doesn’t allow us to leave planet Earth.
Norms come back to Earth for one reason: to study human history. But only if they don’t have to interact with us ‘Neanderthals’ along the way. Well, I’ve got a plan to change all that.
Call me whatever you like, I’m every bit as good as they are.
And I’m going to prove it to them.
One of the things I wish for on a regular basis is a teleportation device of my very own, most often when finding out about another awesome book-related event in London. It would be perfect: I’d be able to work a full day, have dinner at home with hubby and the kids and then teleport over just in time to attend a signing or book launch, after which I’d teleport home and get to sleep in my own bed and go to work again the next day. Well, a girl can dream, can’t she? In any case, in Jarra’s time teleportation is not a dream, but has become a reality, not only can you teleport from city to city, you can even teleport off-world. Unfortunately it’s a reality not available to all of humanity, as it turns out. A small percentage of humanity isn’t able to live off planet Earth and has to remain on Earth in order to survive. They are called Handicapped when people are being polite, Neanderthals, throwbacks or apes if they aren’t, and are treated as second-class citizens by the Norms. I thought this was a very cool premise and when I first saw a synopsis on the Harper Voyager blog I was immediately curious to read to rest of the story.
The development of the world in this science fiction YA novel is fascinating. It is very well thought out and thought through; the effect of such a possible escape from an overpopulated Earth on Earth’s society is far-reaching and felt plausible. I loved the way that the depopulation of Earth meant a return to smaller living communities and as such the complete ruin of metropolises such as New York. Life on Earth is almost unrecognisable as the ecology, population and society are completely transformed. Another area where Edwards paid great attention to detail was the protocols used to develop the new systems and how these protocols were adjusted over time as humanity learned from their mistakes. The way the systems subsequently evolved and how they differ in their base ‘characteristics’ – Betans are known for being quite sexually liberated, while Deltans are overall more conservative – due to what sort of people mainly emigrated to settle these worlds is awesome and I always had a sense that there would even be a scientific explanation as to why and how these different demographics chose to band together and leave in the order they did. So the world feels very real and layered.
The characters that inhabit Earth Girl are as well-written as the setting is. Jarra, the main character and narrator, is awesome; gone is the sweet saccharine heroine so prevalent in YA, here we find a bitter and angry young woman looking for a way to get back at the world that’s rejected her for a trait that’s beyond her influence. I loved her development as it felt true without any overnight changes of heart. It felt believable that Jarra knew so much about the digs, especially compared to the students who came from off-planet. Often such seemingly effortless ability and competency draw complaints that the character is too perfect and it’s not plausible especially for a younger character, but not in Jarra’s case; yes, she is intellectually gifted, but she also works very hard for it and has done so since she was eleven. While overall Jarra is a strong girl, independent and with a good head on her shoulders, she’s also quite vulnerable when it comes to her feelings. So when she starts falling for Fian, it’s both lovely to read and super frustrating as Jarra is frightened that he’ll figure out her secret. At the same time I loved her relationship with her teacher, Lecturer Playdon. At first he seems to resent the fact that he has a Handicapped girl in his class pretending to be something else, because she’s Handicapped. But during the narrative Jarra slowly gains his respect and we learn that his initial coldness towards Jarra was due to his fear of her motives of taking the class. Once Jarra has gained his respect, he is a staunch ally and I really respected him for changing his mind.
While I was a little disconcerted by what happens to Jarra and how she deals with the stresses she endures, by the ending I was completely back on board and I loved the resolution to the story. Earth Girl is a fantastic debut, with a voice I really, truly loved. The book is an interesting exploration of what it means to be different and how hard it can be to hate the ‘enemy’ once you put a face to them and really get to know them. Edwards swept me away with her story and made me fall in love with her world and her heroine. Whether you are a teen or an adult, Earth Girl is a lovely read and I hope it’s only the first of many stories by Janet Edwards I’ll be able to read. The book is released by Voyager in the UK today.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.