Monday, July 25, 2016

The Girl from Everywhere - Heidi Heilig (The Girl from Everywhere #1)

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)The Girl from Everywhere is a book that combines a ton of premises that I like with a lovely cover (though I just realized there are eyes in the water, which is kind of creeping me out, and I almost feel like it's channeling some Gone Girl in design) but, for some reason, it didn't actually thrill me as a whole.  The parts were amazing, but when I look back at the sum of them, I'm kind of like, "meh."

So, what are the parts that this has going for it?  Pirate ships.  Girls who sail on pirate ships.  Pirate ships that travel through time using maps, but can only use each map once.  But those maps aren't just tied to real locations, oh no!  They can be used to travel to fantasy and fairy tale locations, too!  And there's a sea dragon that eats pearls!  And the bulk of the book takes place in Hawaii, complete with some cool mythology!  And there are cute guys, who are interested in the heroine, but it doesn't rely on a love triangle to propel the plot!  And there's a solid ending!  And things that tie back into each other!  These are all things that I absolutely love in books.

What I didn't love so much was Nix herself.  For some reason, I just didn't think that she was a strong character.  Not a strong female character--Nix has opinions and isn't afraid to do things herself, and wants to strike out on her own.  But I didn't think she was a strong character in general, and found the other characters in the book to be more compelling and interesting than her.  The basic premise is that Nix has lived her entire life on her father's time-travelling pirate ship, but she's getting worried about this time-travelling for one reason: her father himself.  See, he wasn't there when Nix was born; when she was born in Hawaii in the nineteenth century, he was out travelling through time.  By the time he returned, Nix had been born and her mother had died.  Now, her father (called Slate) wants nothing more to go back to the time between when he left and when he returned so that he can save Nix's mother's life.  Nix has some worries about this, because if he goes back and saves her mother and things change, what happens to Nix?  Nix is helping her father obtain the map that he thinks will bring him back to that critical moment, which...did not agree with me, and really made her feel weak as a character overall.

Here's the thing.  There's this awesome concept floating about in the background here that maybe each map is its own timeline, and idea that I really like; it's debatable whether this is true or not in the mythology of the story because of some things going on with maps failing based on certain factors, but it's a cool idea.  If the idea is true, Nix doesn't have anything to worry about, because the Hawaii that they'd go back to wouldn't actually be the same for her, and there would be an alternate Nix (or lack of one).  But, she's not sure if this is true or not, and she doesn't really want to hedge her bets on it.  Fair enough.  I wouldn't want to hedge my bets on something so unsure, either.  But even with, as far as she can tell, her entire existence hinging on whether or not her father can go back...she helps him.  I don't think the "she loves her father and wants him to be happy" argument is really valid here, because, uhm, they don't really act that affectionate toward each other.  Her father is extremely neglectful and doesn't appear to care that his desire might unwind Nix's very being.  That's really no the hallmark of a good parent.  And he's got some drug problems going on, too, that he prioritizes above her.  Honestly, the rest of her shipmates are more of a functional family to her than her father is.  He also won't teach Nix to Navigate, which is the only thing she really wants, because he knows she'll run away if she knows how to if she doesn't have good reason to.  This whole thing really frustrated me, along with how hunky-dory it all worked out in the end.  I just didn't find it believable that everything would suddenly resolve itself.

That said, I liked a few other things here.  I adored the mixing of mythologies and thought that Heilig did it in a way that really, really worked, which is hard to do.  And the other crewmembers on the Temptation are amazing.  They all have their own backgrounds and personalities and I loved the way they support Nix, really acting as a surrogate family for her since her father is so ridiculous.  Kash is dashing, of course, and the way that he was interested in Nix but never really pressured her was enjoyable.  Blake, while not a crewmember, was also enjoyable.  He had such strong morals and was very consistent with them, and I thought his stance, background, and devotion were very refreshing for a young man in YA fiction--in addition to the fact that even though he, too, liked Nix and would have enjoyed her staying in Hawaii, he didn't press her into anything she didn't want or wasn't ready for.  The setting itself was wonderful; I haven't read enough books set in Hawaii, especially during the time it was still an independent nation, and the inclusion of things such as its opium problem and the nightmarchers were intriguing.

Again, there were so many things about this book that I liked, but overall I didn't like the core story.  At its heart, it was a story about a conflict between a father and daughter, and because I didn't feel the real basis of emotional connection there, I just couldn't get on board with it.  I think the end came across as kind of unbelievable in that dynamic, though I liked how everything wrapped back up around and tied together.  In fact, other than the hokey emotional dynamic between Nix and Slate, I liked the rest of the ending.  Nix and Kash, Nix's newfound abilities, the potential to go sailing off into more amazing times and places--that was all awesome.  It just has such potential that allows the reader to write their own mental stories.  In fact, I was a bit disappointed that this book has a sequel, because I think it's just going to ruin the end of this.

I'm going to give it 3 stars out of 5, because I liked so many of the aspects and how they worked together.  I just couldn't get on board with Nix and Slate as family, and that proved a big problem for the propulsion of the plot in my eyes, meaning I couldn't really enjoy it as I wanted to.

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