Title: Earth Girl
Author: Janet Edwards
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: 16th August 2012
Goodreads Summary: A sensational YA science fiction debut from an exciting new British author. Jarra is stuck on Earth while the rest of humanity portals around the universe. But can she prove to the norms that she’s more than just an Earth Girl?
2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.
Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.
A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.
Earth Girl is set in a world in which those that live on Earth, or rather, confined to Earth, are viewed as ‘handicapped’. Meanwhile the ‘exos’ of the world are able to portal freely inbetween different planets. Jarra was born ‘handicapped’, but she’s determined to prove that this doesn’t make her any less of a person than the ‘exos’. In order to do this, she secretly applies to the University of Asgard to study history, a University that typically only accepts exos, though there’s nothing actually stopping a handicapped student from applying.
Jarra is delighted when she is accepted and embarks on a journey to prove that there’s nothing ‘handicapped’ about her. She adopts a new identity and fools her classmates into believing that she, too, is an exo, but things get very complicated very quickly.
The premise of Earth Girl is excellent. Janet Edwards has created a completely new world with new concepts, new planets and a new language which are all described in phenomenal amounts of detail. There is no sort of ‘explanation’ at the start of this book as to where the story is set or any help in understanding this new Universe and how it works. You are thrust right into the heart of a story and forced to get your head around new words and new ideas very quickly. I loved this about Earth Girl because you, as a reader, are completely absorbed in this story and you start to believe that this is the natural order of the world, though of course, it is far from the world we currently live in.
Although portalling to other planets isn’t a new concept in the world of sci-fi, the idea that certain human beings might be deemed ‘handicapped’ and confined to Earth because their immune systems cannot survive on other planets, is. Really, this isn’t a sci-fi story, it’s a story about a girl looking for acceptance and if you stripped away sci-fi elements of this story you could imagine this as the story of a teenager fighting the unjustified discrimination that exists in every society.
Although Earth Girl started out with brilliant amounts of detail, these details started to grate on me as the story went on. I felt like there was too much time spent describing pretty irrelevant events, which although added to the general ‘atmosphere’ of the book and gave you a further insight into this new universe, were just a little boring. I didn’t feel like there was enough of a plot or a story line in this novel to really support the fantastic new setting created by Janet Edwards. Sure, things ‘happen’, but I don’t feel that whatever climax the story was reaching for was clear or ever really reached.
There was nothing hugely climatic or dramatic about this novel but instead a steady stream of a story that passed without any bumps from beginning to end. Not only that, but some of the plot strands seemed to repeat themselves at intervals, with each one getting slightly more dramatic with each re-write. I felt like I had been reading the same story for a decade before I finally reached the end of this book and there wasn’t even a particularly great finale.
There is an element of romance to this story, but it didn’t touch me at all. There was little connection between the characters Jarra and Fian and there wasn’t anything about them that made them especially compatible. There was no ‘spark’ in their relationship and they didn’t do very many couple-y things before they became rather serious so I got the impression that their relationship was based on nothing.
They’re not exactly a ‘bad’ couple, there’s just nothing special about them and I had little interest in reading about the development of their relationship. This romance isn’t a particularly important part of the plot either, it just sort of runs alongside other things happen, again as a steady stream with no bumps.
Earth Girl is written from the first person perspective of the main character, Jarra. Her narrative is snarky and witty with a hint of bitterness and it’s really interesting to read. That said, she’s the sort of character that I imagine annoying a lot of people as time goes on. Imagine an aloof teenage girl who’s brave and has big dreams, she’s quite ‘real’ but probably not someone you’d get on all that well with in real life. The narrative is great, the narrator, not so much. Had this book been condensed and the waffle cut then Jarra’s narrative would’ve been perfect, but because of the sheer amount of detail the author goes into, I felt like there was a Jarra-overload.
For a debut novel the world building is absolutely fantastic; however, the brilliant beginning of Earth Girl was not followed by a brilliant ending (or a brilliant middle) which was hugely disappointing. The world that Janet Edwards has created is painted with vivid details which is the novel’s strong point, but the flaccid plot and lack of character connection leaves you weeping for the story that could’ve been.
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