Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
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 different 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 the 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.
Just imagine you live in an age where humanity has finally reached the stars and we are able to travel to distant planets in the blink of an eye. The whole universe is out there waiting to be explored, but by a simple twist of fate you have to stay behind. Not only that, but all those that are able to travel between worlds look down at you. To them, your kind are to be pitied like some sort of sub-human.
Jarra is an excellent student and is given the opportunity to join a prestigious university course that focuses on Earth’s pre-history (essentially all time before the invention of the portal technology). Young adults from all over the galaxy come back to Earth to study their ancestral home. So keen is she to escape her perceived handicap, Jarra invents a new history for herself. To her new classmates Jarra’s unconventional ways and her extensive knowledge of Earth is just the product of a military upbringing.
Through the course of her studies, Jarra connects with a fellow student called Fian. With her deception firmly in place Jarra gets to experience what life for Norms is like. Everything seems to be going perfectly until a traumatic event leaves Jarra starting to believe her own version of the truth.
Earth Girl is set nearly eight hundred years in the future and I’d like to tell you that things have improved, but the trials and tribulations of being a young adult remain the same as they are now. Jarra is a likeable protagonist and I found her journey both thought provoking and believable. She still faces the constant battle to fit in with the group and relentless peer pressure is with her every day. I can imagine it’ll be very easy for any young person to relate to her plight, anyone who has ever been made to feel different will understand.
Where I think Earth Girl really excels is Edwards’s unique vision of the future. The mass exodus from Earth has created multiple divergent cultures. Each new society still view Earth as their familial home but have splintered off into their own individual groups. It gives the author the opportunity to explore how differing morals and societal attitudes can effect the development of a civilization. These ideas form a strong backbone to the main story and elevate a simple plot into something more complex.
At the most basic level Jarra is just trying to find her place in the cosmos. As she struggles to discover her own identity the reader is treated to a superior young adult novel that is as insightful as it is entertaining. This is a great debut and I’m looking forward to Edwards next novel already.
Earth Girl is published by Harper Voyager and is available from the 16th August 2012.