Raise anchor and prepare to set sail through time and across the globe with Heidi Heilig's highly anticipated The Girl from Everywhere (Greenwillow Books, Feb. 16). An imaginative fantasy adventure, this YA novel draws on mythology, science fiction, history, and good old fashioned pirate stories to create an epic story of love, fate, and time travel. Hold onto your hats, because this book is a wildly fun ride.
Nix has lived on her father Slate's ship, the Temptation, since she was a baby, but her dad isn't just any old sea captain — he's a Navigator with the ability to sail to any place, any time, as long he has the right map. For nearly two decades, however, the Temptation and its crew — Bee, and lesbian widow from North Africa whose ghost wife is still with her, Rotgut, a former inhabitant of a Chinese monastery, and Kashmir, a young Persian boy from the fictional world of Vaadi al-Maas — has attempted and failed to return to the one place Slate's been obsessing over: Honolulu 1868, the time and place Nix was born, and her mother died.
While her father is busy dreaming of the day he finds his beloved again, Nix is terrified that reuniting her parents and saving her mother will mean the end of her own existence. But how can she abandon her father when he can't even take care of himself? Someday, Nix hopes to learn to be a Navigator herself and travel the world, and through time, to far-off lands away from her hopeless, drug-addicted father and the threat of being wiped from history. For now, though, she'll stay with the Temptation, the only place she's ever really called home, with only her future plans and Kashmir's friendship to keep her spirits up — but is there something more there?
That's right, this story has not only family drama, magical time travel, and adventure, but it has a love story, too. As if Nix doesn't have enough to worry about, what with her very existence being threatened and the constant guilt over her mother's death that is a constant weight on her shoulders, she is also struggling to define her feelings for Kashmir, who doesn't make things any easier for her:
His breath was warm on my neck, and I shivered again, but not from fear. For a moment, all I wanted in the world was to turn around, like Lot's wife, like Eurydice, to see what was in his eyes, but before I could gather the courage, he gave me another squeeze and dropped his arms.
Once her father finds out about her feelings for Kashmir, he uses it to exploit her and keep her aboard the Temptation to help him carry out a theft that will finally give him the map he needs to find Nix's mother, but at the cost of Hawaii's native population. What's more is that the theft is on behalf of a Mr. Hart, the father of Blake, a young while boy living in Honolulu who befriends Nix and shows her all the secret wonders the island has to offer. Yes, that's right, this love story just became a love triangle — on one side, a Persian thief, and on the other, a proper boy from Nix's own time and place. I told you things got interesting.
Even more interesting that the love triangle is the complex triangle between Slate, Nix, and Nix's mother, Lin. Throughout the story, Nix's father repeats again and again his undying love for Lin, and he swears to stop at nothing until he can get to her again, even if that means losing Nix in the process. As he puts it:
“Sometimes a person has to let go of something to take hold of something else.”
A thick book clocking in at 464 pages including the enlightening back matter, The Girl from Everywhere spends a lot of worthwhile time building Nix's world and history before carrying readers off into a heart-thumping, thrilling conclusion.
So much more than a time-traveling fantasy adventure, here are seven reasons you will love The Girl from Everywhere:
1. It Stars A Strong Female Lead
Katniss and company are going to have to welcome a new member to the cool girl's club, because Nix is another kickass character to be added to the every growing group of phenomenal female protagonists in young adult literature.
After all, I was the one to plot our way through the centuries and the maps, the one who helped him through his dark times, the one who could, say, identify fantatical animals from twenty paces and negotiate with their sellers.
Strong, smart, and fearless, Nix can take care of herself and her father, even though it's supposed to be the other way around. A truly clever and independent girl, Nix is another great role model for YA readers.
2. It Make You Question What Reality Is
Like any good time travel book, The Girl from Everywhere really makes you question what you think you know about time, space, and reality. Nix's predicament in particular makes you wonder what real and what is possible:
"Some people think that reality would split into two versions, or that it already has split and I just don't know it. But others think that if the past is changed, I might just..." I spread my hands, and we both considered the empty space between them.
Aside from the fantastical questions of alternate realities, The Girl from Everywhere asks important questions about history, too.
“And once everyone agrees something is one way, all the other ways it could have been disappear.”
3. It Features Diverse Characters
Nix, the heroine of the story, is half white and half Chinese; Kashmir is a poor Persian thief; and Bee is a black lesbian from Africa. But these diverse characters aren't just there for show — their stories are purposeful and meaningful to the overall message of the book. Their presence in the novel creates a space for important issues of prejudice, racism, and sexism to be brought up in a meaningful way. And, speaking of which...
4. It Addresses Important Issues Of Race, Class, And Sexuality
The Girl from Everywhere may be a YA, but it doesn't shy away from addressing important topics. Through the experiences of its diverse characters, Heilig's novel highlights the racial prejudice that persists across time and throughout history
I put the phone back in my pocket and watched the security guard, who had laid down the paper on his desk and was glaring at Kash with his jaw clenched. No matter the era, cops never liked Kashmir.
Heilig doesn't just focus racial prejudices, though. She exposes issues facing lesbians, too:
"Who cut her throat? Was it cattle rustlers?"
"A man jealous of her... her marriage actually."
"How awful." Blake gazed at Bee. "It's hard to comprehend all the evil committed in the name of love."
Heilig uses her characters' stories to, in a very natural and seamless way, call attention to the very real threats facing minorities, those in poverty, and even the LGBTQ community. It's a talented writer who can address such heavy topics without it feeling forced or superficial, and Heilig can pull it off.
5. It Sheds Light On Addiction And Obsession
Nix's father is a man with many vices, one of which is his addiction to opium. Without glorifying it, Heilig is able to paint an accurate picture of what an addict looks like:
I kicked the door; thinking it was still locked. But it flew open, and there was Slate, staring up at me from the floor. Lank hair was plastered to his forehead; his eyes were rimmed in red, the blue of the irises were a slim halo around the black holes of his pupils. The heavy odor of sweat crawled into my nostrils. Beside him on the floor was the box. My fingers itched to grab the wholemess, to hurl it into the sea: the thing he loved best, gone in an instant. Instead, I tightened my gripon the doorknob. "Go to sleep, Slate."
Raw, emotional, and thought-provoking, addiction is an important issue that needs to be explored in our culture, now more than ever, and The Girl from Everywhere gives people a context to do it in.
6. The Book Is Beautifully Packaged
Not only is the cover of The Girl From Everywhere breathtaking, but the interior of the book features detailed page designs and black-and-white drawn maps. A truly immersive read, the packaging of this book makes you want to crawl inside of it and become a part of its beautiful world.
7. It's A Fun, Exciting Read
A smart, thought-provoking YA, The Girl from Everywhere is, in the end, a fun, action-packed fantasy adventure that will keep you turning pages. Though it's filled with historical context and fictional world building, it's a well-paced novel with plenty of action sequences to keep readers on the edge of their chairs:
Kashmir sprang into action, racing up the stairs to the quarterdeck and grabbing the sea anchor. I followed on his heels and helped heave it off the stern. As the canvas caught our wake and dragged, another swell hi broadside and jolted us hard enough to rattle my teeth. This time Kashmir stumbled; I took his hand and grabbed the rail, bracing for the next wave, but it never came. The sea stilled once more as we ran right off the edge of the map.
In a world where there is danger around every corner, whether it's a storm at sea, an ancient beast, or a greedy white man, there's not a dull moment in The Girl from Everywhere.
The Girl from Everywhere is already poised to become one of the most talked about books of 2016, but this reader only has one question: When can I read the sequel?
Image: Sadie L. Trombetta/Instagram