BOOK REPORT for Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
Cover Story: A World of No
BFF Charm: Hell Nah!
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Internal Monologue
Bonus Factor: Space Archaeology
Anti-Bonus Factors: Futuristic Names, Futuristic Vocabulary
Relationship Status: It's Not Me, It's You
Cover Story: A World of No
I see some bad covers in this business, but this one is REALLY, REALLY BAD Y’ALL. As the Fug Girls would say, “WORDS. WORDS WORDS WORDS."
In a future where most of the human race has portalled off-world to live on colonies scattered around the universe, 18 year old Jarra is part of the small population of people stuck on Earth. Jarra is “handicapped,” meaning she was born with a rare immune system deficiency that prevents her from ever leaving Earth. Instead, she grew up in a home for abandoned Earth-bound kids whose parents were unable move planets with their children, or unwilling to deal with the stigma of having a handicap child.
But now that Jarra is off to college, she’s breaking down barriers by applying to an off-world school. Because all history courses are required to conduct their first year on Earth, she can get away with attending for a year before transferring to an Earth school. She comes up with a plausible backstory as a military kid and sets out to prove to her prejudiced off-world classmates that they’re wrong about handicap kids. But can Jarra keep up with her tangled web of lies and prevent her classmates from finding out the truth about her? (Spoiler: no. the answer is always no.)
Basically, it’s Camp Rock, but set in the future with space archeologists instead of Jonai.
BFF Charm: Hell Nah!
Ugh. Jarra is THE WORST. She is always trying to prove herself by being that girl, showing off at any possible opportunity. She’s kind of like Hermione at the beginning of the Harry Potter series, but unlike Hermione, she never gains any perspective or has any measurable character growth. Also, unlike Hermione, she FUCKING SUCKS. She’s always whining about how judgemental “exos” (off-planet humans) are of “handicaps,” but she is more judgemental than all of her classmates combined.
I know why she acts the way she does--years of prejudice, being abandoned by her family, desperation to prove herself in a world that considers her subhuman--but that doesn't mean I have to like her. And worst of all, she has a raging case of Mary Sueitis. Despite being the least likable character I’ve read in a long-ass time, EVERYONE LOVES HER! ALL THE BOYS WANT TO GET WITH HER! ALL THE GIRLS WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH HER! SHE’S THE TEACHER’S PET STUDENT! EVERY SPACE ARCHAEOLOGIST LEFT ON EARTH THINKS SHE’S BRILLIANT AND AMAZING AND A HERO! EVEN THOUGH SHE HAS ABSOLUTELY NO REDEEMING QUALITIES OMG JUST STOP WITH THE MARY SUE EPIDEMIC THAT IS HAPPENING IN YA LITERATURE BEFORE MY HEAD EXPLODES.
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Jarra and her classmate Fian have this whole star-crossed lovers thing going on, but I just could not find two shits to give about their relationship. To begin with, Fian is soooo milquetoast. Seriously, the reason he and Jarra work so well together is that he’s willing to be steamrolled over by her constantly. It’s hard for me to feel tingly about that kind of relationship. Next, Jarra is initially attracted to him because he looks like her favorite television character. (Jarra, as somebody who seriously considered going out with someone solely because he looked like Simon from Misfits, this is not a good enough reason to date someone. Whoever he is, he will always be a comparative disappointment.) Another tick in the “no” column is that in the future, teenagers get something called a “twoing contract,” which is basically a legally-binding pre-marriage that you get in the very early stages of your romantic relationship. As someone who fears commitment like the plague, I can’t get behind that. Also, lawyers take some of the excitement out of courtship. Finally, there’s the small detail that THEIR ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP IS FOUNDED ON JARRA’S PATHOLOGICAL LYING. I’m so sure this is going to work out in the long run.
Talky Talk: Inner Monologue
Edwards tells the story from Jarra’s point of view, which is shockingly not bad considering how little patience I have for her. But it is very inner monologue-y in that I really wish there was more editing here. She babbles about dig equipment for just long enough that it stops being remotely interesting, and I just can't be bothered to care about her favorite tv shows.
I also am calling bullshit on her as a reliable narrator, because there is NO WAY all her classmates actually like her. If Jarra were in my masters program today, I guarantee you that four-fifths of us would hate her and the remaining fifth would merely tolerate her. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are when you’re annoying. Nobody respects a know-it-all.
In the end, I chose to interpret the story as Jarra being straight up delusional, as that was the only way to explain her personality. This was reinforced by a weird and completely unnecessary bit in the middle where she goes into shock and actually believes her made up backstory she tells to her classmates. So in the reliable-narrator version in my head, not only does Jarra not actually have any friends, but she also fails out of her program because she’s really bad at history/space archeology.
Bonus Factor: Space Archeology
So pretty much the only thing I liked about this book is the space archeology. Which I guess isn’t actually space archeology because it takes place in abandoned New York City, but whatever. Semantics. I appreciate the way Edwards created an entire new field of study in this future universe. Plus, she made archeology seem EXCITING! Not that it’s not exciting today, but like, it makes the book a little more interesting when you’re in a life-threatening discipline rather than dusting old dirt off a pottery shard with a toothbrush. Plus, there’s always the hope that Jarra will be spontaneously buried under a collapsing skyscraper and DIE (she doesn’t, but a girl can dream).
Anti-Bonus Factor: Futuristic Names
Ok, I get that it’s part of the world-building and what not, but I just can’t with stupid names in books. Why must every name look like an Ikea product? I just ended up changing the names for half the characters because it was so distracting... sort of like when you’re reading something written in Ye Olde Language and you just learn to swap out letters after a while. Fian became Finn, Keon became Ken, Riak became Rick, etc. Strangely enough, Jarra became Yarra, and I have no explanation for why that happened.
Anti-Bonus Factor: Futuristic Vocabulary
This is kind of the same vein, but GOD THE SLANG IN THIS BOOK WAS RIDICULOUS. In theory, I like the idea that Edwards would build linguistic shifts into her world-building, but in practice, I cannot take a book seriously that makes the word “butt” a horrible, taboo, offensive word.
Taylor Swift as Jarra
Relationship Status: It’s Not Me, It's You
Book, you had a really cool premise, and if I think hard enough about it, I’m sure I can come up with some other things I liked about you. But at the end of the day, you just have a really bad personality. And that’s on you, not me.
FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Prometheus books. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Earth Girl is available now