The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (The Girl From Everywhere #1)
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Time Travel
Publisher: Greenwillow Books on February 16, 2016
My thanks to Greenwillow Books for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.View Spoiler »
As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.
But the end to it all looms closer every day.
Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.
For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.
She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.
Or she could disappear. « Hide Spoiler
Sixteen year-old Nix has spent her whole life aboard The Temptation, a 19th century era sailing ship captained by her distant father, Slate. As a member of the crew, Nix is responsible for cleaning the decks, hoisting the sails, and other duties she shares with her other crew mates. But Nix also has another, special responsibility: she finds things. Procuring rare artifacts, some with mythical powers, falls under Nix’s purview. None of the items she locates are more important than the maps, however.
For The Temptation is no ordinary ship, and she has no ordinary captain: Slate is a Navigator, someone with the ability to sail a ship to any place and time, so long as they are in possession of a map depicting the place and drafted during the time that they wish to arrive. As far as Slate is concerned, all his Navigating and all his maps are leading to one thing: Honolulu 1868 – and the weeks before Nix’s other died giving birth to her. But what will happen to Nix if they ever reach their destination? Will her life as she knows it remain unchanged? Will Nix herself continue to exist?
While THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE does feature elements of time travel, the vast majority of the book takes place in 19th century Honolulu. Heidi Heilig does a wonderful job describing the island’s natural beauty and its people and I felt transported to Hawaii while reading. Not exactly a hardship on my part!
Heilig’s deft hand describing the island isn’t surprising given that – according to her author bio – she is a resident of Hawaii. Combining personal experience with historical research, Heilig creates a compelling vision of an island paradise poised on the precipice of a colonial takeover. Contrasting the culture and politics of Hawaii’s Aboriginal peoples with those of the white, mainland colonists, we see a version of Hawaii torn between two identities. Similarly, Nix herself feels torn between her desire to stay aboard The Temptation with the only family she’s ever known and her awareness that if she must leave them behind if she wants to live a life unfettered. The parallels between Nix and the land she comes from were by far my favourite aspects of the novel.
As Nix and the crew slink about Honolulu searching for the final map they need, she encounters young artist Blake Hart. Blake teaches Nix about the culture, myths, and legends of Hawaii’s native people (although he himself is white….hmm). Nix’s friendship with Blake doesn’t sit very well with Kashmir, Nix’s Persian best friend and fellow crew member. Love triangle alert! It was fairly mild though, thank goodness.
It’s the myths and legends that Blake and Kashmir impart – along with countless others from countries across the globe – that lend THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE its fantastical elements. Despite the importance of Navigation for the story, very little of its mechanics, rules, or consequences are discussed. Of course, this is largely because Slate refuses to tell Nix much of anything, but still. I definitely wanted more from the world building on the fantasy side of things.
I found THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE very difficult to read at times because of Slate’s selfishness and his substance abuse. As a long-time opium addict who – apparently – doesn’t care whether his daughter is wiped from existence, Slate is hardly a sympathetic character. Heidi Heilig writes him remarkably well, and I found myself getting quite riled by his actions. While I liked Nix, I also wanted to shake her and scream at her to wake up. Her relationship with her father is left in a very interesting place at the end of the novel and I confess that I’m very curious to see how it plays out.
It’s also worth noting that THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE features a diverse cast of characters, highlighting interesting and nuanced people of colour and queer characters. If you’re looking to read more diversely and don’t mind fantasy novels that are a little light on magical world building, then you’ll probably enjoy THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE. Despite my gripes, I certainly did!