Summary: A sensational YA science fiction debut from an exciting new British author. Jarra is stuck on Earth while the rest of humanity portals around the universe. But can she prove to the norms that she’s more than just an Earth Girl?
2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.
Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.
A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.
My Thoughts: With YA, I’ve read a lot of books where the main female character is supposed to be special, but doesn’t know why. And that, by itself, is OK. I think a lot of people in real life don’t understand why they’re special, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Unfortunately, in these kinds of books, the character reminds you repeatedly how unsure of themselves they are at each turn. It happens to mirror some real life problems women deal with, but that’s a longer story. What was refreshing about Jarra is that I didn’t have to be concerned with that. She was exceptional, and she didn’t go off questioning it or apologizing for it.
Another standout aspect was the worldbuilding. This society that’s been built around portals, with their social caste and past that mirrors the 21st century, was so imaginative. By the beginning chapters, I was almost salivating with the thought of how cinematic this was. And that whatever problems Jarra faced to get what she wanted would be awesome to watch unravel. But here’s where things get a bit murky. Jarra’s main problems came from herself, which isn’t abnormal in a man vs. self-type conflict. But there were other problems that seemed to suggest man vs. nature, except there was no deeper connection between the inner and outer conflict. The “rescue missions” (I won’t say more than that) didn’t tie in well enough to the internal problem.
Or maybe my issue was that Edwards set up a world where something bigger could have happened. Like, don’t give me a Star Trek world and have the whole story take place on earth. That’s what it felt like. Jarra’s personal problems could have been in the midst of a bigger/deeper “world” problem, but it wasn’t. With that said, I’m aware that this is the first of a series. And because I loved Jarra and the world, and could still see where a second book could redeem the story, I won’t give up on this series. It has too much potential!
Update: I just read the premise of the second book, and it sounds like what I wanted to happen during the first book!