Wednesday, October 2, 2013
This YA science fiction novel grabbed me from the start. It features a seventeen-year-old girl living on Earth in the year 2788, in a society in which much of the population has spread out to other solar systems. However, there is a very small percentage of humans who have an immune system that is unable to support their survival on any planet but Earth. When an infant is born off world who has this rare condition, he or she is immediately transported (through a portal transport system) to Earth before anaphylactic shock can set in. If the child's parents cannot (or will not) move to Earth to be with their child, the child is raised in a sort of orphanage/school on Earth, with a very politically powerful part-time guardian to look out for them.
Jarra is one such child, unable to leave Earth, abandoned by her parents, thought of by the rest of "exo" society as a throwback, or worse, an "ape." She is finishing up her final year of school and must decide upon a profession and college. She is utterly obsessed with archaeology, but, being contrary and feisty, she decides to apply to an exo program. The first part of that university program takes place on Earth, so she can physically do it, and she wants to go in proving that an "ape" girl can hold her own among norms. She joins her university cohort, who has no idea she's an "ape," and begins the daunting task of proving her worth among them.
This is a gripping story with a fascinating premise, and I adored it while I was reading it (aside from the inordinately minuscule font size) - up until the end. I'm not sure what happened, but the story is moving quite nicely toward a suspenseful climax - when it all falls apart, and then it just kind of wraps up retrospectively. The Big Reveal - in which Jarra's "ape"status is revealed to her her exo classmates, happens off stage. That's right - the reader gets to hear about it afterwards, secondhand. How disappointing is that? It seemed like a huge cop-out, and left me feeling utterly unsatisfied. Great premise, interesting characters, excellent setting, nice dash of romance, but ultimately disappointing.
Earth Girl by Janet Edwards (Prometheus Books, 2013)