They call her ape, nean, barely human or if they’re being polite, handicapped. In reality, Jarra simply has an immune system that can’t survive off-world. She is one in a thousand. When she was born she was shipped off to earth to be brought up among others of her kind. When she reaches 18, she makes the decision to pass as an exo, applying for a pre-history course run by the planet Asgard. The practical nature of pre-history means that she will never have to step off planet earth but will her classmates find out what she is before she’s had her chance to prove a point?

Earth Girl is a proper science fiction novel for the young adult market. Set in 2788, most humans now live on colonised planets, travelling between them via portals. After what has become known as the exodus, earth cities were abandoned and began to decay and collapse. Unfortunately, someone didn’t take care of their back-ups (good morality tale here) and vast amounts of data, including news and research was lost. Hence the need for the archaeological sites of the future and students like Jarra, moving dangerous rubble to unearth the secrets of the past. I loved that day to day items from now were suddenly seen as historically important items when they were uncovered. There is a lot of detail of their archaeological excavations and I do wonder if this might put some younger readers off. Jarra’s obsession with history gives a great vehicle to world build and provides back-story whilst keeping within the plot.

Of course, there is some sort of relationship stuff going on during this but it plays second fiddle to the story of the earth. The world very much has a non sex (or anything) before marriage agenda and this seems to be adhered to by the characters. Even on planets that have different intimacy laws, they still all seem to go through a twoing ceremony first. There’s a section where Jarra has some sort of post-traumatic stress episode that I wasn’t quite convinced by, especially as she turned into a rather giggly girl during it.

There was one sentence that threw me off a bit. It’s only mentioned in passing, but apparently they have proof that the universe was created by a deity. It seems really out of place in a science fiction novel where everything should explained by science and most of humanity are now living on different planets. If the book went a bit further to explain this miraculous proof, then fine, that’s partly what science fiction allows us to do, but no, it’s just left hanging. It’s especially odd coming from a British author as we’re pretty much on the side of evolution over here, even if you do believe in god. With that and the whole celibacy thing, I was expecting some religious dogma to be thrust at me at any moment… fortunately it never happened. Though now I’m left thinking what on earth could this proof be?

Overall it’s an utterly believable world with engaging characters and a dash of humour. A great debut from Janet Edwards and I look forward to reading more from her in future (though sooner than 2788, I hope). Earth Girl is due to be published in the UK on 16th August 2012 by Harper Voyager. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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