Paperback, 358 pages
Published August 16th 2012 by Harper Voyager
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.
This novel has a fantastic premise. A girl who is trapped on earth while the rest of humanity travels through the universe, living on newly discovered planets and just being cooler. Then she decides to go to a foreign (as in a different planet) university that holds its mandatory history course (program?) on earth (which makes sense since they’re studying human history). Apparently, in the future, archaeology is a pretty darn big deal because earth is reverting to natural status and human beings no longer know how to deal with feral things like wolves (other than scream and run, you’d think they’d have them under control by now) – anyway, I’m rambling.
So yeah, Jarra, aka the Earth Girl, goes to the foreign university that is doing an extended field trip on earth and starts lying. She lies profusely about who she is, where she comes from, who her parents are. Everything. But she is pretty superawesomessauce special snowflake so she knows more than the instructor and in fact, she lectures the class (which means a whole lot of telling in the narrative, like A LOT) and then she is better than everyone at everything. She saves people, she has boys wanting her, the military gives her some kind of honor because IT IS A COINCIDENCE but all those lies she told about her military background? They’re ALL true.
It started to get ridiculous around the time her parents die one page after she finds them again. Whoops, spoiler. What happens after that is even more ridiculous.
Jarra is a Mary Sue.
She is the Mary Sue-ist Sue there ever was and she probably throws up rainbows. She can’t do anything wrong. The world is created well and were it peopled with characters more interesting, engaging and flawed than Jarra, I dare say I would have enjoyed the novel a whole lot. However, the fact that Jarra can do no wrong is a major deterrent where enjoyment is concerned. Everyone loves her, forgives her for lying and accepts her because she’s too wonderful not to accept. The military gives her the highest honor there is for a reason I’m still unclear on. Her boyfriend’s parents accept her even though we are told the mother does not like Earthbound people at all. Her boyfriend gets over his anger at being deceived very quickly. Her friends shrug it away and just.
I did not like the book. There are parts of it that I found interesting but I found it difficult to believe that people would be so irresponsible to let the infrastructure of major cities simply fall to ruin. Were New York city to be vacated due to a major migration to space, you can bet your pants that people would at the very least dispose of flammable chemicals etc. The only way I would accept that people simply left things as they were (open can of coffee on the counter) is if they evacuated in a hurry. It is human nature to pack up and put away in case of absences. So yeah, I had trouble with the logistics of the novel, the characters and the basic plot. I don’t think I’d recommend it but you may have a different reaction to Jarra than I did. (I can’t even think about her without rolling my eyes.)