Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Book Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Title: Earth Girl
Author: Janet Edwards 
Genre: Science-fiction, Young Adult
Notes: Published in 2012 by Harper Collins in the UK & Pyr in the USA. 

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. Eighteen-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 makes up a fake military background for herself and joins a class of norms who are on Earth for a year of practical history studies excavating the dangerous ruins of the old cities. She wants to see their faces when they find out they’ve been fooled into thinking an ape girl was a norm. She isn’t expecting to make friends with the enemy, to risk her life to save norms, or to fall in love.

Why I read it

It got a very nice review over at The Book Smugglers and I thought the premise sounded interesting. Also, the UK cover is gorgeous and I am a shallow bookworm. 


For the handicapped, the universe is restrictive. They’re tied to one planet rather than being able to portal to others. (I imagine this feels like being confined to your hometown for your entire life.) To make things worse, most were given up by their birth families, and all are constantly mocked by offworld “norms”. Enter Jarra, the main character of Earth Girl. She’s handicapped, and understandably bitter about that fact. However, a love of history and a desire to escape lead her to enroll in an off-world history course – one she can attend for the first year only, as it takes place on Earth. 

I thought Jarra was an excellent character. Her bitterness at being handicapped felt very real to me, but it never overshadowed her drive to succeed or her love of history, other core aspects of her personality. Other reviews have called her a Mary Sue, but I disagree. It’s true she initially outshines the others on her course, but this is understandable: thanks to her disability, she’s had amateur experience at Earth dig-sites, and is a history-nerd to boot. My only complaint was the reason why Jarra kept her identify secret for so long. I won’t spoil the book, but I feel like the ending glossed over the ramifications of this choice. Hopefully it’ll be better addressed in the sequel.   

Jarra’s classmates were an entertaining bunch. They’re a diverse group hailing from every sector in the galaxy, providing steady subplots of gossip, friendship and romance. I thought the sexual Betans were particularly well-drawn. Karth, a foil for Jarra rather than a person in himself, was the only character I found frustrating. He was described as suspicious of the military, thanks to his left-wing conspiracy theorist of a father. Fair enough. But he was also most bigoted norm of the course (again courtesy of his “left-wing” father). How does that make sense? I think it would have been better to split the character into two, and give each more complexity.  

Despite that, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a clever YA novel that pairs a bitter and capable teenage protagonist with excellent worldbuilding, and absolutely deserves all the hype it’s been getting. 

The Cover

I love the English cover. The combination of colours and the font are stunning, and I’m not surprised that this is the image the author used for her blog. The American one, on the other hand, makes the novel look like a handbook for young environmentalists. I really don’t understand why the strident, capable Jarra was portrayed so passively here, or why she’s hugging the Earth that gives her so much pain. It doesn’t fit the tone of the book at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment