Tuesday, September 6, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere, #1) / Heidi Heilig

TITLE: The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere, #1)
AUTHOR: Heidi Heilig
PUBLISHER: Greenwillow Books

Young Adult - Fantasy

Heidi Heilig’s gorgeous YA fantasy debut, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, follows 16-year-old Nix Song as she travels across time and through mythology. Nix lives on an enchanted pirate ship, The Temptation, that can sail to any place for which a map exists—no matter what time period it’s from or what kind of reality it depicts. Captained by her father, the ship has taken Nix to a grand variety of places—from the land of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights to modern-day New York City. But though he could go anywhere and anytime, Nix’s father only seeks one location: Hawaii in the 1860s, when Nix was born… and when her mother died. The only way he can get there is by obtaining a map drawn of that era and in that era, and he’s so hell-bent on going back in time to save his wife that he never pauses to think about what this might mean for his daughter. Nix, on the other hand, is all too aware that his actions could erase her life—her dreams of captaining her own ship, her friendships with the crew (particularly the charming Persian thief, Kash), any hope for a future.

The bulk of the novel takes place in 1880s Honolulu, where Nix, her father, and the crew chase yet another lead for the map Nix’s father wants so desperately. Funnily enough, this is actually the era Nix would have lived in if she hadn’t spent her life on board a time-hopping barge. It’s here that Nix meets Blake, a kind-souled American boy who offers, for the first time she can remember, a reason to stay in one place. There is a bit of a love triangle between Nix and the two boys in her life—Kash and Blake—and honestly, I didn’t know who to root for. Both love interests are charming, though in very different ways, and both seem to genuinely care about Nix. And I loved reading her dialogues with each of them… the characters really came alive for me, and I found myself more invested in them than I meant to.

The romance is just a small part of the story, though. The plot follows Nix in her efforts to both obtain the map for her father and discover her own past—which, it turns out, is much more complicated than she imagined. THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE is a wonderfully imaginative and refreshingly unique book with fantastic world-building and truly memorable characters. The settings really come to life and, in a way, they’re characters in the book as well. I loved how Heilig explored places that aren’t often seen in books, adding something different and lovely to the world of YA. Nix is an intrepid and sympathetic heroine—one who’s fearless in her actions yet whose emotions fill the page with relatable vulnerability—and I really enjoyed the combination of wit, snark, and rawness in her voice. Also, it was great seeing a hapa girl get the spotlight for a change.

One of the real highlights for me was when Nix ended up in the fantastical necropolis of a ruthless Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang. This is part of a history and mythology I’d grown up hearing snatches of, but never really seen depicted in fiction (unless you count the third Mummy movie, which... meh). The vivid descriptions, the sense of a lost world come to life, the meticulous research that clearly went into writing about this place… actually, these things apply to all the settings.

Anyway, THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE is a truly enjoyable fantasy adventure with characters I couldn’t get enough of. I was listening to the audiobook version while on an 11+ hour drive across half the country, and that drive went by way too quickly. The narrator does a beautiful job of bringing Heilig’s words to life in a way that feels genuine and inviting. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for something magical and different, something with writing that really pops and sparkles.

Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko'olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she's written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their pet snake, whose wings will likely grow in any day now.

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