Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (book review).

Just as the boundary between Fantasy and SF, Horror and Crime can be blurred, so that between a Young Adult and an adult book can be equally problematic especially as a YA is regarded as someone over sixteen who has a number of rights not permitted to those under that age but, at the same time, still have some restrictions open to adults. No wonder young people are confused. From a publishing point of view, there is consideration given to the fact that younger readers notoriously go for the category above that printed on the cover. So YA readers are likely to be the fourteen to sixteen year-olds which makes a publisher wary of providing something their parents might not approve of. Sex is out or thinly veiled but there must be lots of angst about the opposite sex.

‘Earth Girl’ is a debut novel from a talented new writer, Janet Edwards. It is the first of a trilogy designated YA by the publisher and is SF. There is not a vampire or werewolf in sight. It is narrated by Jarra Reeath, an eighteen year-old, brought up on Earth. This is not her choice and she is resentful of the circumstances that have forced this circumstance on her. Most of the population of Earth migrated to other planets once the portal system had been developed and the planets okayed for colonisation by the Military. Unfortunately, a few children are born allergic to all other planets and have to be shipped to Earth almost instantly. These children are raised to know that they can never leave the planet and most are rejected by their parents. Jarra is one of these. To compound matters, the exos (those who live on other planets) tend to regard Earth children as inferior throwbacks. They are the bottom of society’s heap and the butt of racist taunts.

Jarra is a rebel and although knows she can never leave, is determined to prove that she and her friends are as good as anyone else. As history is her passion (her friends are always telling her to shut up about it), Jarra enrols in the University of Asgard as an archaeological student. This suits her fine as the foundation course takes place entirely on Earth at various digs. She has already visited many of them and knows her way around, especially New York where they are based for the first section of the course. Her problem is that she doesn’t want the other students to know she is an Earth Girl, so she manufactures a history for herself, claiming that she is Military born. As the Military move from place to place, she doesn’t need to claim a planet of origin and can pretend that the skills she has already acquired are the result of a Military upbringing.

Jarra begins her course with as many prejudices regarding her fellow students as they have about her kind. If anything, these come across as stereotypes. Planets have been settled in sectors as the portal system has expanded. The oldest colonised, Alphas, are populated by the rich and the spoiled or so Jarra thinks. Beta planets allow a very louche lifestyle – skimpy clothes, uninhibited sexual mores, while Gammas are up-tight puritans. Gradually, though, Jarra begins to understand that the stereotypes are just that and her fellow students are as fallible as she is, their attitudes relating to their upbringing.

Jarra herself is a very likable teen who bounces onto the page and never stays still. She begins as a bit of a super-woman, accomplishing tasks easily that her fellows have yet to learn. She has a lot of growing up to do throughout the course of the novel and there are surprises waiting for her.

The setting and situations are well thought out and the image of the crumbling ruins of New York five hundred years in the future is a powerful one. Despite the occasional plot convenience, this is a light, enjoyable romp but with deeper issues being considered in the undertow. An excellent start to what, hopefully, will be a productive writing career.

Pauline Morgan

(pub: Harper Voyager. 358 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-00-744349-9)
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