Earth Girl by Janet Edwards – Review

Earth Girl

Book Jacket:

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. Eighteen-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 makes up a fake military background for herself and joins a class of norms who are on Earth for a year of practical history studies excavating the dangerous ruins of the old cities. She wants to see their faces when they find out they’ve been fooled into thinking an ape girl was a norm. She isn’t expecting to make friends with the enemy, to risk her life to save norms, or to fall in love.


Sci-fi, archaeology, college kids getting a peek at the larger world and coming head to head with their prejudices, and a spunky, impulsive, smart girl lead – I mean, what’s not to love?

First off, the world of this book is just marvelous – and it’s NOT a dystopia, for a change! No, this book holds a different kind of future, one where Earth has been all but deserted in favor of the colony worlds – and there is such glorious, glorious texture and detail to be found across the breadth of this story, in every respect. From the different, distinct cultures that have sprung up on the various colonies, all brought together in this archaeology class – which leads to wonderful culture clashes and social stigmas among the students – to the technologies at play on the dig sites, with hover belts and impact suits and other sci-fi goodies, not to mention the history revealed by what they uncover, and moreover the insight the course-work itself gives us into the larger history of and issues with the colonial system, all in all this world teems with fascinating richness. Edwards has build a full, complete future and brought it alive in a mesmerizing way – and I could not tear myself away.

As for Jarra, our leading lady, she is equally wonderful. She’s rash and impetuous, but also smart and caring, and I just loved watching her set out to confront the “other” she has defined herself against for her entire life, only to find that it’s her own prejudices that are starting to unravel. And as her cynicism starts to soften, Jarra slowly begins to come to terms with herself, to believe in her own worth in ways she wasn’t able to before – to finally see herself as more than just an “ape”. It’s a wonderful story of self discovery – and never an easy one, as Jarra gets caught up in her own web of lies, and goes through quite a bit of emotional turmoil, up to and including a full on psychological crises. And through it all Jarra, as strong and stubborn and competent as she is, is always real, always fallible, and always vulnerable, and it’s just impossible not to root for her.

Now granted I am a total history/archaeology nerd, so I’m a bit biased – but between the dangers and discoveries of the dig site, the tension of a group of students from disparate backgrounds all thrown together in close quarters, and the secret Jarra has to keep, even as she comes to hate the lies, all in all it makes for a really, really good story. And while I did find one turn in Jarra’s personal arc a bit odd, I liked how it all played out – and the end of this book just made me smile. So yes, I downright loved this book.

A fascinating blend of culture, history, emotion, and adventure, Earth Girl is a school story, a coming of age story, and simply a fantastic story all around. And I for one can’t wait for the next book!

Byrt Grade: A

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews (starred review) says:

Action, rich archaeological detail and respectfully levelheaded disability portrayal, refreshingly free from symbolism and magical cures, make this stand out.

Pen to Paper says:

I was immediately sucked into Jarra’s world, and found myself emotionally invested in her very early on…This is such a beautifully rich and deeply gripping science fiction novel, and I absolutely urge you to try it  – you won’t be disappointed!