Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The heroine’s character development was superb, but the world building was subpar.
+ the world building
The world building failed to respect the book’s central theme of history and ultimately its setting as an alternative reality. No explanation was offered for how all nations united as one civilization. Neither was an explanation offered for how people suddenly stopped being religious despite the brief but incredibly jarring sentence about how physicists found proof for creationism simply just to explain the single OMG a secondary character uttered in chapter 5.
As far the world building was concerned, events that led up to the present time, world peace magically happened, and then a third world war leading to the rise and fall of a “Second Roman Empire” which completely ignored the Third Rome controversy and suggested poor research, assuming any, in the writing process. The sad thing is that the book could have simply avoided all the aforementioned issues if it took place in a completely fictional world, albeit inspired by real world settings, instead of an alternate reality.
I also took issue with the idolization of the Military and their ambiguous position in a non-existent political structure. The world building failed to develop the idea of a government. It also failed to convince me that when people left Earth for better planets, ones that didn’t suffer increasing solar storms, they didn’t make backups of humanity’s knowledge and assumed the Earth’s Internet and other various networks were infallible, an assumption that made no sense due to Earth’s increasing solar storms. How convenient it was that during Earth’s exodus, the emigrants left time capsules, a.k.a. stasis boxes, behind because it was trendy, time capsules that would later be excavated for humanity’s lost knowledge.
Finally, I didn’t like the prudish angle the world building worked sometimes. I didn’t care for the equating of polyamory to promiscuity in the form of Jarra’s two Betan classmates. It was bizarre how the slang for ass was “legs” and worse that for a while, due to the lack of proper context clues, I thought a leg fetish was the fashion. Equally bizarre was the “Twoing.” I still don’t know whether Twoing is an engagement or some sort odd official declaration to the government that a couple is dating.
+ the heroine
Thankfully, the prudish angle tapered off when reasons for Jarra’s two Betan classmates’ matriculation were revealed and Jarra, the heroine, realized the errors, among many, of her judgement.
I loved Jarra. She was supposed to be this flawed character, I think, intended for the reader to warm up to but I liked her from the get-go. I thought her anger was justified, and I fully supported her plan to show the norms up. What started out as a plan of vengeance quickly became a case of character growth as Jarra slowly dismantled her prejudice and came to like and trust the people she previously resented. I loved how she finally summoned the necessary courage to face her abandonment issues, the source of her anger.
The only time I didn’t like to read about Jarra was when she suffered a breakdown in the last third of the book and didn’t snap out of it for a couple chapters, a good chunk of the book. It was also the time I wished the story didn’t stick to an exclusive 1st person POV, Jarra’s POV. Jarra’s breakdown was completely understandable but it was hard to read, so much so that I skimmed. It was the only time I skimmed in the book.
I really liked how her love interest stuck by her, that when Jarra pushed back in fear of rejection, he didn’t let her. Though bland in the personality department, Fian was a nice guy through and through, and it was refreshing and delightful to read about a love interest who didn’t act rudely to gain the heroine’s attention. Jarra may have made a poor decision in selecting her first boyfriend, but with Fian as her second boyfriend she certainly learned her from mistakes. Also, no love triangle — hell yes!
The extent of her character growth amazed me, caught me off guard quite frankly, because that amount usually demands a couple of books in a series. Jarra amazed me so much that she (and a very satisfactory ending) more than compensated for all the issues I had against the book for its splotchy world building which at the very least was conveyed elegantly, i.e. no info-dumping.
I rate Earth Girl 4-stars for I really liked it. The fact that it’s book 1 in a series surprises me because the book tightly wrapped up all the loose ends. I am excited to return to the world, but with trepidation that the sequels might tarnish book 1 (which given my experience is not as uncommon an occurrence as I’d like it to be). Earth Girl set the expectation very high.
I definitely recommend the book for readers looking for a focused YA science fiction with a flawed but strong heroine with a reservation: ignore the fact that the setting is an alternative reality.
Buddy read and discussion with Georgina.
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